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Noaidi - the one who sees: bringing to light the religious experience among the 17th-18th century Sámi

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The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This

The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This thesis develops a more accurate, intersubjective paradigm that is used to illuminate more clearly the religious workings of the 17th-18th Century Sámi. Drawing upon the intersubjective theories presented by A. Irving Hallowell, Tim Ingold and Kenneth Morrison, ethnographic examples from the writings of early Lutheran missionaries and priests demonstrate that the Sámi lived in a world that can be best understood by the employ of the categories of Person (ontology), Power (epistemology) and Gift (axiology).

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2014

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The history of niddah in America as social drama: genealogy of a ritual practice

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Since the 1960’s and 1970’s, ethnographic research on Jewish menstrual rituals known as niddah, Taharat HaMishpacha, or Family Purity has associated their practices with religious behavior. Much of this research organizes around questions of women’s agency within ostensibly patriarchally constructed

Since the 1960’s and 1970’s, ethnographic research on Jewish menstrual rituals known as niddah, Taharat HaMishpacha, or Family Purity has associated their practices with religious behavior. Much of this research organizes around questions of women’s agency within ostensibly patriarchally constructed religious practices that carry the potential to oppress its women practitioners. This premise is built upon a number of implicit assumptions about the history of today’s niddah practices: that niddah is observed exclusively by Orthodox Jews; that increasing rates of niddah observance correlate exclusively with the trend toward stricter observance levels among the Orthodox since the 1960s; and that this increasingly strict observance itself reflects a reactionary trend among the Orthodox community (a.k.a. tradition versus modernity). All these assumptions currently circulate, in various degrees, among the American Jewish lay community and are shared by a significant number of congregational rabbis. Until the 1990s, no history of niddah existed to either support or refute these assumptions. I initially intended that this project would provide future ethnographers with a comprehensive history of niddah in America during the past one and a half centuries. I engaged Victor Turner’s theory of Social Drama as a framework for understanding this history as a socio-cultural process, rather than as a series of less than related events. However, this study h*as resulted in the identification of many more specific assumptions about the decline and revival of niddah observance in the twentieth century, which are not supported by the scant evidence available. These challenged assumptions beg new directions for research; a thorough reworking of the history of niddah in America; and a fresh look at the literature advocating niddah produced in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. This genealogy as Social Drama presents niddah in twentieth century America as undergoing periods of crisis, negotiation, and reintegration. This drama was triggered by late nineteenth century concepts of religion, body, and ritual that undermined and ruptured the integrity of niddah as a bodily religious ritual practice. Niddah’s twentieth century social drama culminated in fresh articulations of a unique Jewish sexuality and Jewish marital ethic.

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2016

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Competing Christianities: social dynamics of religious change in the upper South

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This study analyzes competing forms of Protestant Christianity within the Bible Belt of the Upper South (Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina). On one hand, a conservative “culture war” version of Christianity has dominated the South, and deeply influenced national politics,

This study analyzes competing forms of Protestant Christianity within the Bible Belt of the Upper South (Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina). On one hand, a conservative “culture war” version of Christianity has dominated the South, and deeply influenced national politics, for almost fifty years. This form of Christianity is predicated on white supremacy and heteropatriarchy and regulates religious, as well as sexual, gender, and racial norms. On the other hand, an emerging movement of those once socialized in the culture war version of Protestantism is now reconfiguring the regional traditions. Through ethnographic fieldwork, qualitative interviews, and historical analysis, this study explores the ways these post-culture war Christians are navigating and negotiating relations with family, church, and politics and society more broadly. This work argues that Protestantism in the Upper South is being re-landscaped from the inside by individuals staying within the tradition who seek to reorient regional, national and religious identities. This study goes beyond generalizations about changes in American religion to shed light on the specific motivations, conflicts and dynamics inherent in shifts in lived religion in this particular region. In so doing it also contributes to deeper understanding of processes of religious change more generally.

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2018

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Drenched in the Blood of the Lamb: James Baldwin, Religion, Violence, and Marginalization

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James Baldwin (1924-1987) was one of the most well-known African American fiction and nonfiction writers of the twentieth century. Throughout his life and career, he earned a worldwide reputation as a respected novelist, memoirist, and essayist who contributed to a

James Baldwin (1924-1987) was one of the most well-known African American fiction and nonfiction writers of the twentieth century. Throughout his life and career, he earned a worldwide reputation as a respected novelist, memoirist, and essayist who contributed to a wide array of artistic movements and intellectual discourses. Many scholars have noted the particular African American religious and cultural influences upon Baldwin’s work. More recently, scholars have additionally noted the importance of Baldwin’s globally-engaged thought and internationalist life. Throughout all of his work, Baldwin wrote extensively on the subject of religion. This dissertation posits the topics of religion, violence, and marginalization as integral to his nonfiction writings and speeches, particularly after 1967. As such, it argues that Baldwin in his early career established four distinct discourses on morality, evil, scapegoatism, and purity that he came to connect in his later writings on the intersection of religion, violence, and marginalization. Within these writings, Baldwin also displayed a rigorous engagement with multicultural and multireligious artistic and literary canons, along with the evolving academic study of religion. Therefore, not only should the intersection of religion, violence, and marginalization be a central consideration for Baldwin scholarship, but scholars of religion and violence in particular would benefit from engaging Baldwin’s addressment of this intersection.

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2019