James S. Bielo

James S. Bielo is Lecturer of Anthropology at Miami University. He is the author of Words upon the Word: An Ethnography of Evangelical Bible Study (NYU Press, 2009) and Emerging Evangelicals: Faith, Modernity, and the Desire for Authenticity (NYU Press, 2011), and the editor of The Social Life of Scriptures: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Biblicism (Rutgers Press, 2009). As a teacher-scholar at Miami, Dr. Bielo primarily teaches courses in cultural and linguistic anthropology, ethnography, religion, American communities, and globalization. Read more posts at Reverberations.

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Friday, January 25th, 2013

Does fragmentation equal change?

Marcia Pally’s post tracks the important fact that contemporary American evangelical social and political engagement is fragmenting. She rightly observes that such fragmenting is not historically novel, and is a self-consciously critical response to the power of the Religious Right.

To read of “robust polyphony” among evangelicals was especially welcome to me, as I addressed this phenomenon in a recent ethnography, Emerging Evangelicals (NYU Press, 2011). As a cultural anthropologist, I explored the identities fashioned, practices performed, histories claimed, institutions created, and critiques waged among evangelicals influenced by the Emerging Church movement. Pally’s astute analysis returned me to a question I stopped short of fully developing: does fragmentation equal change?

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