Matching Items (16)

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Cultivating the domain: Alexander Campbell, print capitalism, and denomination building in the trans-Appalachian West, 1810-1850

Description

This study examines how a populist religious leader, Alexander Campbell, altered the economic value system of religious material production in the early United States and, subsequently, the long-term value structure

This study examines how a populist religious leader, Alexander Campbell, altered the economic value system of religious material production in the early United States and, subsequently, the long-term value structure of religious economic systems generally. As religious publishing societies in the early nineteenth century were pioneering the not-for-profit corporation and as many popular itinerants manufactured religious spectacles around the country, Campbell combined the promotional methods of revivalism and the business practices of religious printers, with a conspicuously pugilistic tone to simultaneously build religious and business empires. He was a religious entrepreneur who capitalized on the opportunities of American revivalism for personal and religious gain. His opponents attacked his theology and his wealth as signs of his obvious error but few were prepared for the vigor of his answer. He invited conflict and challenged prominent opponents to grow his celebrity and extend his brand into new markets. He argued that his labor as a printer was deserving of compensation and that, unlike his “venal” clerical opponents, he offered his services as a preacher for free. As Americans in the early national period increasingly felt obligated to find the “right kind of Christianity,” Campbell packaged and sold a compelling product. In the decades that followed his first debate in 1820, he built a religious following that by 1850 numbered well over 100,000 followers. This dissertation considers the importance of marketing, promotion, investment capital, distribution networks, property law, print culture, and ideology, to the success of a given religious prescription in the nineteenth century American marketplace of religion. Campbell’s success reveals important social, political, and economic structures in the nineteenth century trans-Appalachian west. It also illuminates a form of religious entrepreneurialism that continues to be important to American Christianity.

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  • 2018

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Guantánamo: The Amen Temple of Empire

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Guantánamo: The Amen Temple of Empire connects the fetishization of the trauma of nine/eleven with the co-constitution of subjects at Guantánamo—that of the contained Muslim terrorist prisoner silhouetted against the

Guantánamo: The Amen Temple of Empire connects the fetishization of the trauma of nine/eleven with the co-constitution of subjects at Guantánamo—that of the contained Muslim terrorist prisoner silhouetted against the ideal nationalistic military body—circulated as ‘afterimages’ that carry ideological narratives about U.S. Empire. These narratives in turn religiously and racially charge the new normative practices of the security state and its historically haunted symbolic order. As individuals with complex subjectivities, the prisoners and guards are, of course, not reducible to the standardizing imprimatur of the state or its narratives. Despite the circulation of these ‘afterimages’ as fixed currency, the prisoners and guards produce their own metanarratives, through their para-ethnographic accounts of containment and of self. From within the panopticon of the prison, they seek sight lines, and gaze back at the state. This dissertation is thus a meditation on US militarism, violence, torture, race, and carceral practices, revealed thematically through metaphors of hungry ghosts, nature, journey and death, liminality, time, space, community, and salvage. Based on a multi-sited, empirical and imaginary ethnography, as well as textual and discourse analysis, I draw on the writing and testimony of prisoners, and military and intelligence personnel, whom I consider insightful para-ethnographers of the haunting valence of this fetishized historical event.

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  • 2018

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The Life and Afterlives of Patrick Francis Healy, S.J.

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This dissertation centers on the life of Patrick Francis Healy, the son of an enslaved woman and an Irish slaveholder. Born in 1834, Healy became a Jesuit priest in 1864

This dissertation centers on the life of Patrick Francis Healy, the son of an enslaved woman and an Irish slaveholder. Born in 1834, Healy became a Jesuit priest in 1864 and the president of Georgetown University in 1874, seven decades before Georgetown admitted its first African American student. In the twentieth century, historical investigations of race and American Catholicism cast Healy and his family in a new light. Today, the Healys are upheld in some circles as African American Catholic icons. Patrick Healy is now remembered as the first African American Jesuit and Catholic university president, as well as the first African American to receive a doctorate. This dissertation pursues both the life of Patrick Healy as well as what I call his “afterlives,” or the ways in which he has been remembered since the 1950s, when Albert S. Foley, S.J. discovered that the Healys’ mother was enslaved and refashioned them from white Irish Americans to white-passing African Americans. How and why did Patrick Francis Healy understand and comport himself as a white, upper-class Catholic? How and why have others sought to construct him as African American in the years since his ancestry was made widely known? How has Georgetown incorporated Healy’s legacy, in the context of its and other universities’ coming-to-terms with their dealings with slavery more broadly? I pursue these questions through archival sources (primarily Healy’s diaries and letters) at Georgetown University and College of the Holy Cross, as well as secondary literature on passing, subjectivity, and hagiography.

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  • 2020

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Mormonism and the new spirituality: LDS women's hybrid spiritualities

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This dissertation illuminates overlaps in Mormonism and the New Spirituality in North America, showing their shared history and epistemologies. As example of these connections, it introduces ethnographic data from women

This dissertation illuminates overlaps in Mormonism and the New Spirituality in North America, showing their shared history and epistemologies. As example of these connections, it introduces ethnographic data from women who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in order to show (a) how living LDS women adapt and integrate elements from the New Spirituality with Mormon ideas about the nature of reality into hybrid spiritualities; and (b) how they negotiate their blended religious identities both in relation to the current American New Spirituality milieu and the highly centralized, hierarchical, and patriarchal Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The study focuses on religious hybridity with an emphasis on gender and the negotiation of power deriving from patriarchal religious authority, highlighting the dance between institutional power structures and individual authority. It illuminates processes and discourses of religious adaptation and synthesis through which these LDS women creatively and provocatively challenge LDS Church formal power structures.

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  • 2012

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Mormons and the World's Fair 1893: a study of religious and cultural agency and transformation

Description

My dissertation project, Mormons at the World's Fair: A Study of Religious and Cultural Agency and Transformation looks at a pivotal period of transition within the American religious and political

My dissertation project, Mormons at the World's Fair: A Study of Religious and Cultural Agency and Transformation looks at a pivotal period of transition within the American religious and political national culture (1880-1907). Using Mormonism as an important focal point of national controversy and cultural change, this dissertation looks at the interconnections between Mormon transitions and the larger national transformations then under way in what historians call the "progressive" era. Prominent scholars have recognized the 1893 World's Fair as an important moment that helped initiate the "dawning" of religious pluralism in America. This national response to American religious diversity, however, is limited to a nineteenth-century historiographical framework, which made real religious pluralism in the next century more difficult. Bringing together into one narrative the story of the anti-polygamy crusades of the 1880s, the ambivalent presence (and non presence) of Mormonism at the World's Fair of 1893, and the drawn-out US Senate Hearings and ultimate victory of Mormon apostle and Senator Reed Smoot in 1907, this dissertation offers new insights into the meaning and limitations of American religious liberty, the dynamics of minority agency, as well as a deeper understanding of America's developing national identity.

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  • 2012

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Ambivalent blood: religion, AIDS, and American culture

Description

Ambivalent Blood examines the unsettled status of religious language in the semiotic construction of HIV/AIDS in America. Since public discourse about HIV/AIDS began in 1981, a variety of religious grammars

Ambivalent Blood examines the unsettled status of religious language in the semiotic construction of HIV/AIDS in America. Since public discourse about HIV/AIDS began in 1981, a variety of religious grammars have been formulated, often at cross-purposes, to assign meaning to the epidemic. The disease's complex interaction with religion has been used to prophesize looming apocalypses, both religious and national, demand greater moral solicitude among the citizenry, forge political advantage within America's partisan political landscape, mobilize empathy and compassion for those stricken by the disease, and construct existential meaning for those who have already been consigned to physical and social death. Several studies fruitfully have explored specific registers of religious discourse and the AIDS epidemic, particularly in regard to processes of social stigmatization and combating its very effects. However, assumptions about the secular aims of scientific inquiry as well as the presumably secular trajectory of American national culture have dampened a more robust consideration of religion within the history of HIV/AIDS. In most synoptic histories of AIDS, religion is constructed as either a wincing footnote to the Religious Right or as an occasional and bland example of salubrious Christian charity posed against the backdrop of disease and death. Ambivalent Blood seeks to extend such analysis beyond a digestible footnote by disinterring the often polysemous and ambivalent interaction of HIV/AIDS and religious discourses within American culture. Though not a historiographic work, the current project illuminates the complicated ways in which religious and HIV/AIDS discourses coalesced around the very definition of America itself. Like the Cold War that preceded and the Global War on Terror that followed, the AIDS crisis precipitated significant and contested recourse to the religious imaginary in the effort to forge conceptions of Americanness and citizen belonging.

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  • 2012

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Accounting for Judaism in the study of American messianic Judaism

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Since its modern renaissance in the mid-1970s, the Messianic Jewish movement in America has grown from a handful of house churches to a network of hundreds of synagogues and congregations.

Since its modern renaissance in the mid-1970s, the Messianic Jewish movement in America has grown from a handful of house churches to a network of hundreds of synagogues and congregations. Mainline American Judaism has unanimously rejected the argument that Jews who believe in Jesus continue to be members of the Jewish community or that their religion is a form of contemporary Judaism. Scholars have accounted for Messianic Judaism as a new religious movement but no consensus has formed on whether to classify Messianic Jewish religion as a sectarian form of Protestant Christianity or American Judaism.

This dissertation uses a polythetic approach to defining Judaism and a comparative approach to studying religions in order to make sense of Hashivenu, a newly emergent community of Messianic Jews, and the claim that their religion is “truly” Judaism and not Christianity. It addresses the question of how scholars of religion can account for Messianic Judaism in the mapping of American religion without succumbing to essentialist definitions of Judaism that religious communities use to set boundaries and differentiate themselves from competing groups.

Following the lead set by Bruce Lincoln on defining religion in four domains and Michael Satlow on defining Judaism through the use of conceptual maps, research on Messianic Judaism suggests that individual beliefs about whether Jesus is or is not the Messiah or part of a Trinitarian theology are less important to the academic classificatory project than is the authorizing religious discourse of the New Testament to which all Messianic Jews, including the Hashivenu group, appeal for creating community, legitimating practice, and constructing a Messianic Jewish worldview. Since Messianic Judaism properly contributes simultaneously to maps of both Judaism and Christianity, Hashivenu’s prescriptive approach to creating Judaism out of characteristics from two historically competitive, even antithetical religious traditions challenges scholars to contend with the limitations of defining Judaism and Christianity within the parameters of an unpopular but still regnant World Religions discourse predicated on the presumption that the two religions have long ago permanently parted ways.

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  • 2015

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Son salutations: Christian yoga in the United States, 1989-2014

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This work examines the spectrum of Christian attitudes toward yoga as demonstrative of contemporary religious imagination in recent United States history. With the booming commodification of yoga as exercise, the

This work examines the spectrum of Christian attitudes toward yoga as demonstrative of contemporary religious imagination in recent United States history. With the booming commodification of yoga as exercise, the physical and mental elements of yoga practice are made safely secular by disassociation from their ostensible religious roots. Commonly deployed phrases, "Yoga is not a religion," or even, "Yoga is a science," open a broad invitation. But the very need for this clarification illustrates yoga's place in the United States as a borderline signifier for spirituality. Vocal concern by both Christians and Hindus demonstrates the tension between perceptions of yoga as a secular commodity and yoga as religiously beget. Alternatively embracing and rejecting yoga's religious history, Christian yoga practitioners reframe and rejoin yoga postures and breathing into their lives of faith. Some proponents name their practice Christian Yoga.

Christian Yoga flourishes as part of contemporary religious and spiritual discourse and practice in books, instructional DVDs, websites and studios throughout the United States. Christian Yoga proponents, professional and lay theologians alike, highlight the diversity of American attitudes toward and understanding of yoga and the heterogeneity of Christianity. For religious studies scholars, Christian Yoga advocates and detractors provide an opportune focal point for inquiry into the evolution of spiritual practice, the dynamics of tradition, experience and authority, and the dialectic nature of evolving cultural attitudes in a religiously plural and complex secular environment.

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  • 2014

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Spiritual economy: resources, labor, and exchange in Glastonbury and Sedona

Description

Current data indicates that a growing number of individuals in the English-speaking world are identifying as “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR). Using ethnographic data collected at two important sites of

Current data indicates that a growing number of individuals in the English-speaking world are identifying as “spiritual, but not religious” (SBNR). Using ethnographic data collected at two important sites of spiritual pilgrimage and tourism—Glastonbury, England and Sedona, Arizona—this project argues that seekers at these places produce spirituality as much as they consume it. Using the lens of economy, this project examines how seekers conceptualize the (super-) natural resources at these sites, the laborious practices they perform to transform these resources, and the valuation and exchange of the resultant products. In so doing, the project complicates prevailing notions, both among scholars and the public, that contemporary unaffiliated spirituality is predominantly an individualistic consumer process.

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  • 2018

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

Description

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

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