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'The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood': community, enterprise and anti-modernity among reforming evangelical Christians in a United States city

Fletcher, Katharine (2016) 'The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood': community, enterprise and anti-modernity among reforming evangelical Christians in a United States city. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Abstract

This thesis is an ethnographic study of communities, businesses and individuals in a city in the Pacific Northwest region of the US who participate in a reforming turn within evangelical Christianity that critiques the American evangelical church’s emphasis on programmatic evangelism and church growth, and its association with conservative politics. The thesis begins by introducing the ideas of ‘community’ and ‘intentionality’ as they orient individuals’ ethical self-fashioning within an intentional community that participates in this turn. The thesis goes on to examine this and other groups’ ethos of communitarian localism, in which people imagine the possibilities for social and ethical renewal in explicitly placial terms; largely eschewing verbal evangelism in favour of the material and ritual work of ‘placemaking’, and personal commitments to living as much of one’s life as possible locally. We see an ambiguous posture of industry and disavowal, as people pursue transformative action in the neighbourhood, while holding an ethical presumption against all forms of power, and seeking to resist the capitalist temporalities of ‘development’. The thesis examines how people use enterprise to enact their localism; showing how doctrines of ethical capitalism, understood by some scholars as ‘neoliberal’, but seen locally as potentially ‘radical’, are deployed in service of a petit-bourgeois ideal of a morally embedded small-town economy. The final chapter addresses this subculture’s cosmological and sociological outlooks, notably its anti-modernity. I argue that the turn toward ‘holistic’ community, symbolised in mixed-use urban space, and imagined theologically as the Kingdom of God, represents an aspiration to ethicise the public sphere, and close the gap between private and public by rescaling society to the level of interpersonal interaction. In this sociologically reflexive subculture, we see an ambition of recuperating the morally choosing Protestant individual from the distributed personhood entailed in a functionally differentiated economy and society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2016 Katharine Cordelia Fletcher
Library of Congress subject classification: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
Sets: Departments > Anthropology
Supervisor: Engelke, Matthew and Cannell, Fenella
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3467

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