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Home » Prof Elina Hankela

Head of Department
Name: Elina Hankela
Location: Room 606, A-Ring, Auckland Park Kingsway Campus
Faculty of Humanities, Rated Researchers  Staff Members

Contact Details:
Tel: + 27 (0)11 559 2733


About Prof Elina Hankela

Brief Professional Biography

Prof Elina Hankela is an Associate Professor specialising in the study of Christianity, liberation theologies and questions related to social justice. She uses qualitative and, in particular, ethnographic methods to make sense of the faithworld of Christian individuals and communities in urban South Africa, with much of her previous work focusing on xenophobia and migration. Hankela earned her ThD from the Faculty of Theology at the University of Helsinki (Finland) in 2013 and later received the Title of the Docent from the same university. She has a Y1-rating (2019-2024) from NRF and is currently the co-leader of an NRF-funded project titled “The continuing sociopolitical influence of liberation theologies in South Africa.” Hankela has served as the Head of the Department of Religion Studies since January 2023.


Postgraduate Diploma in Education (in the Field of Higher Education), Wits, 2019

Doctor of Theology / ThD, University of Helsinki, Finland, 2013

Master of Theology / MTh, University of Helsinki, Finland, 2007


Selected publications

Hankela, Elina, Ignatius Swart and Clementine Nishimwe. 2022. African Pentecostal churches and racialized xenophobia: International migrants as agents of transformational development? Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. 39(3): 133-149.

Hankela, Elina, and Reggie Nel. 2022. ‘Keep yourself busy’: Young people, FBOs and social cohesion in Riverlea. In Stuck in the Margins? Young People and Faith-based Organizations in South African and Nordic Localities, eds. Ignatius Swart, Auli Vähäkangas, Marlize Rabe, Annette Leis-Peters, Göttingen: VandenHoeck & Ruprecht, 143-165.

Swart, Ignatius, Elina Hankela and Henrietta Nyamjoh. 2021. Language practices as religious innovation: The case of Pentecostal Charismatic churches in xenophobic contexts. International Bulletin of Mission Research 45(2): 167-176.

Hankela, Elina. 2020. Pentecostal theology, identity politics, and racialized xenophobia: Claiming a new social order. Journal of Religion in Africa 50: 299-327.

Hankela, Elina. 2020. Liberating the classroom: Ethnographic Elements in Liberation Theologies Curricula. Teaching Theology and Religion 23: 84-95.

Hankela, Elina. 2020. Liberationist conversion and ethnography in the decolonial moment: A Finnish theologian/ethicist reflects in South Africa. In Faith in African Lived Christianity: Bridging Anthropological and Theological Perspectives, eds. Karen Lauterbach and Mika Vähäkangas, Boston/Leiden: Brill, 52-79.

Hankela, Elina. 2020. Segmented urban space and the ethics of belonging in migrants’ Johannesburg. Ethnic and Racial Studies 43(6): 931-949.

Hankela, Elina. 2014. Ubuntu, migration and ministry: Being human in a Johannesburg church. Studies in Systematic Theology. Leiden/Boston: Brill.

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