Halvorson, “Conversionary Sites”

Halvorson, Britt. Conversionary Sites: Transforming Medical Aid and Global Christianity from Madagascar to Minnesota. 2018. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Drawing on more than two years of participant observation in the American Midwest and in Madagascar among Lutheran clinicians, volunteer laborers, healers, evangelists, and former missionaries, Conversionary Sites investigates the role of religion in the globalization of medicine. Based on immersive research of a transnational Christian medical aid program, Britt Halvorson tells the story of a thirty-year-old initiative that aimed to professionalize and modernize colonial-era evangelism. Creatively blending perspectives on humanitarianism, global medicine, and the anthropology of Christianity, she argues that the cultural spaces created by these programs operate as multistranded “conversionary sites,” where questions of global inequality, transnational religious fellowship, and postcolonial cultural and economic forces are negotiated.

A nuanced critique of the ambivalent relationships among religion, capitalism, and humanitarian aid, Conversionary Sites draws important connections between religion and science, capitalism and charity, and the US and the Global South.

Markofski, “New Monasticism and the transformation of American Evangelicalism.”

Markofski, Wes. 2015. New monasticism and the transformation of American evangelicalism. New York : Oxford University Press.

Publisher’s Description: For most of the last century, popular and scholarly common sense has equated American evangelicalism with across-the-board social, economic, and political conservatism. However, if a growing chorus of evangelical leaders, media pundits, and religious scholars is to be believed, the era of uncontested evangelical conservatism is on the brink of collapse-if it hasn’t collapsed already. Combining vivid ethnographic storytelling and incisive theoretical analysis, New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism introduces readers to the fascinating and unexplored terrain of neo-monastic evangelicalism. Often located in disadvantaged urban neighborhoods, new monastic communities pursue religiously inspired visions of racial, social, and economic justice-alongside personal spiritual transformation-through diverse and creative expressions of radical community. In this account, Wes Markofski has immersed himself in the paradoxical world of evangelical neo-monasticism, focusing on the Urban Monastery-an influential neo-monastic community located in a gritty, racially diverse neighborhood in a major Midwestern American city. The resulting account of the way in which this movement reflects and is contributing to the transformation of American evangelicalism challenges entrenched stereotypes and calls attention to the dynamic diversity of religious and political points of view which vie for supremacy in the American evangelical subculture. New Monasticism and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism is the first sociological analysis of new monastic evangelicalism and the first major work to theorize the growing theological and political diversity within twenty-first-century American evangelicalism.

Nilsson, “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland”

Nilsson, Erik (2012) “Conserving the American Dream: Faith and Politics in the U.S. Heartland.” Stockholm studies in social anthropology. Stockholm, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis.

Publisher’s Description: Recent decades have seen substantial changes in the U.S. political landscape. One particularly significant development has been the growing influence of a conservative coalition encompassing evangelical Christianity, interventionist foreign policy and neoliberal reform. This study explores the force and internal dynamics of this political assemblage. Based on fieldwork among conservative voters, volunteers and candidates in a small city in northwestern Ohio during a midterm election year, it probes the energy of conservative politics, its modes of attachment and influence, and the organizational forms through which it circulates. Contemporary conservative politics are shown to be centered on a particular epistemological intuition: that to be able to act, one must believe in something. This intuition implies an actively affirmative stance toward “beliefs” and “values.” The study also addresses methodological and analytical challenges that conservative politics pose for anthropological inquiry. It develops a “conversational” analytical attitude, arguing that in order to understand the lasting influence conservatism one has to take seriously the problems that it is oriented toward.

Bielo, “How Much of this is Promise?”

Bielo, James (2011) “”How Much of this is Promise?”: God as Sincere Speaker in Evangelical Bible Reading” Anthropological Quarterly 84(3):631-653

Abstract: In this article I examine how language ideology intersects with textual ideology, listening, and group identity in an American Evangelical context. The ethnographic focus is a men’s Bible study group, their extended reading of the Old Testament book of Proverbs, a schism within the group involving a Pentecostal participant, and the tensions that surface when they read biblical texts as promises from God. I argue that the model of the sincere speaker can be extended to scriptural authors, forming religious subjects as listeners. The religious listening that is created, when viewed against the backdrop of Evangelical textual assumptions and Western assumptions about the nature of promises, explains the struggles these men encounter through their collective reading of scripture.

A part of the special issue Beyond Logos: Extensions of the Language Ideology Paradigm in the Study of Global Christianity (-ies)

Bielo, “Emerging Evangelicals”

Bielo, James S. 2011. Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity. New York: NYU Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Emerging Church movement developed in the mid-1990s among primarily white, urban, middle-class pastors and laity who were disenchanted with America’s conservative Evangelical sub-culture. It is a response to the increasing divide between conservative Evangelicals and concerned critics who strongly oppose what they consider overly slick, corporate, and consumerist versions of faith. A core feature of their response is a challenge to traditional congregational models, often focusing on new church plants and creating networks of related house churches.

Drawing on three years of ethnographic fieldwork, James S. Bielo explores the impact of the Emerging Church movement on American Evangelicals. He combines ethnographic analysis with discussions of the movement’s history, discursive contours, defining practices, cultural logics, and contentious interactions with conservative Evangelical critics to rethink the boundaries of “Evangelical” as a category. Ultimately, Bielo makes a novel contribution to our understanding of the important changes at work among American Protestants, and illuminates how Emerging Evangelicals interact with the cultural conditions of modernity, late modernity, and visions of “postmodern” Christianity.

Bielo, “Purity, Danger, and Redemption”

Bielo, James S. 2011. Purity, Danger, and Redemption: notes on urban missional Evangelicals. American Ethnologist 38(2):267-280.

Abstract: In this article, I examine how urban missional evangelicals in the United States cultivate a sense of place. Being “missional” refers to the desire to be a missionary in one’s own society, an idea that has spread widely through the Emerging Church movement. Proceeding from an ethnographic analysis of two urban pastors, I argue that being an urban missional evangelical means having an intricate, nuanced, but ultimately mediate sense of place. Grounded in a cultural logic that seeks distance from suburban evangelicalism, the urban missional sense of place exists as a lived critique of modernity, which I explore through Mary Douglas’s classic analysis of purity and danger.

Bielo, “City of Man, City of God”

James Bielo (2011) “City of Man, City of God: The Re-Urbanization of American EvangelicalsCity and Society 23(s1):2-23

Abstract: In post-World War II America, U.S. Evangelicalism became a religion deeply entrenched with suburbanization and commercial sprawl. This article examines the growing phenomenon of middle-class white Evangelicals who are returning to the city. Since September 2008 I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork with nearly 100 Evangelicals in the post-industrial, Rust Belt cities of Cincinnati, Hamilton, and Middletown. I argue first that Evangelical re-urbanization is structured by two cultural logics: a biting cultural critique of suburban megachurches, and a desire for the “reconciliation” of urban life to “the kingdom of God.” Second, re-urbanized Evangelicals necessarily encounter the dilemmas of late modern urbanism, including structural processes like neighborhood gentrification. I stress the importance of this phenomenon for both the impact of religion on America’s cities and the impact of urban restructuring on American religion.