Bielo, “Creationist History-Making”

Bielo, James S. 2016. Creationist History-Making: Producing a Heterodox Past. In Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeologies and Pseudoscientific Practices, 81-101. Edited by Jeb J. Card and David S. Anderson. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.

Excerpt: The past, though quite real, is forever and densely mediated by this production of histories. As a cultural process, history-making is a social and ideological accomplishment that is achieved through material means and infrastructure. In turn, the anthropology and ethnography of history-making confronts important questions: how are different relationships to the past cultivated? What strategies and resources are marshaled to perform history-making? And, what is up for grabs in competing acts of history-making? A key contribution of this volume is to develop better ways of thinking about how non-professional historians and scientists perform the work of history-making (cf. Beisaw this volume). The Answers in Genesis creative team reminds us with little subtlety that the past is ideologically contested and that even the most scientifically established historical claims can be actively challenged. As the historian Raphael Samuel writes: “History is not the prerogative of the historian, nor even, as postmodernism contends, a historian’s ‘invention.’ It is, rather, a social form of knowledge; the work, in any given instance, of a thousand different hands” (1994: 8). Moreover, those thousand hands are not working in concert, which means the present hosts multiple historical narratives vying for cultural authority. Anthropologically, our remit is to understand whose hands are doing what and to seek a full ethnographic account of all history-making projects, including those of creationists. To aim for any less is to shrug off our most profound scholarly responsibility.

Guhin, “Why worry about evolution?”

Guhin, Jeffery.  2016. Why Worry about Evolution? Boundaries, Practices, and Moral Salience in Sunni and Evangelical High Schools.  Sociological Theory  34(2): 151-174.

Abstract: Previous work on conservative Protestant creationism fails to account for other creationists who are much less morally invested in opposition to evolution, raising the sociological question: What causes issues’ moral salience? Through ethnographic fieldwork in four creationist high schools in the New York City area (two Sunni Muslim and two conservative Protestant), I argue that evolution is more important to the Christian schools because it is dissonant with their key practices and boundaries. The theory of evolution is salient for American Evangelicals because it is dissonant with reading the Bible literally, which is both their key practice and key boundary. For American Muslims, the key practice is prayer, and the key boundary is gender performance, neither of which is dissonant with evolution. These cases provide evidence for a theory of moral salience that is more cultural and micro-level than the typical political and macro-level studies of issues’ political salience.