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.

Posts by James S. Bielo:

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Making a biblical theme park

Ark Encounter will be a $150 million biblical theme park, scheduled to open in summer 2016. Set on 800 acres of Kentucky rolling hills, 40 miles south of Cincinnati, the centerpiece of the park will be an all-wooden re-creation of Noah’s ark, built to “Young Earth Creationist” specs from the text of Genesis 6:9. The completed ark will be built from three and a half million board feet of timber; stand 50 feet tall, 75 feet wide, 510 feet long (about 300 feet shorter than the RMS Titanic); and contain more than 100,000 square feet of exhibit space.

The park is a joint venture between the creationist ministry Answers in Genesis (AiG) and the for-profit Ark Encounter, LLC. Founded in 1994, AiG is the same ministry that opened the $30 million Creation Museum in 2007. From October 2011 through June 2014, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork with the creative team leading the conceptualization and design of Ark Encounter.

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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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