Spaces of Belonging:The Role of Religious Associations in Filipino Migrants’ Lives in Macau

Tat-In (Dennis) Tam

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This thesis examines the role of religious associations in facilitating a sense of belonging and identity among Filipino migrants in Macau. Using an examination of practices, relationality and materiality the thesis explores how senses of belonging and identity are created, reinforced and transformed in particular spaces and on different time scales. The focus on spatiality considers formal spaces of collective worship and association activities, alongside domestic and commercial spaces, and the public spaces of the city. In temporal terms the main focus is on examining the differences between the mundane, regular daily and weekly associational activities, and the annual festive celebrations.

Qualitative methods including participant observation and interviews were used to collect data over period of 18 months in a Catholic Pastoral Centre, a Catholic charismatic association, a Protestant association and numerous events and celebrations in the Filipino community. Twenty-six formal interviews and fifty informal interviews with Filipino migrants and clergy were conducted.

The thesis highlights the importance of religious associations to Filipino migrants, not just for the practising of faith and affirming their Catholic identity, but also for creating spaces of belonging where secular practices and interactions could take place. Filipino spaces are created through the activities of the religious associations within churches and chapels during collective worship, as well as through individual and collective practices beyond. In many cases these Filipino spaces are very temporary, linked to the public performance of a religious celebration, or collective worship in space not run by the association. Finally, the thesis demonstrates the role of religious associations in liaising with governmental stakeholders, both in the country of origin and destination.

This thesis also contributes empirically to the study of a migrant community in Macau which has recently experienced rapid changes and enriches the city’s cultural landscape yet has received limited academic attention.

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Willis, Katie, Supervisor
  • Crang, Philip, Advisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Mar 2023
Publication statusUnpublished - 2023


  • Macau
  • Filipino migrant
  • Belonging
  • Identity
  • Association
  • Religion

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