Oh, when the state comes marching in: The theopolitics of disaster in sociological perspective
This study employed the "political imagination" as a viable analytic approach to the study of institutional cultural production after two disasters: the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995 and the World Trade Center Attacks of 2001. Specifically, this approach tackled the public reconstitution of basic social assumptions after disasters vis-à-vis processes of institutional differentiation and de-differentiation. In such processes, repertoires of speech and action typically considered mutually exclusive in our contemporary context are enmeshed and presented as resources for post-disaster collective identity formation.
As such, three sociological hypotheses were explored through a qualitative analysis of data from twenty-eight interview participants (including three focus groups), 227 print media sources, and numerous visual data sources. First, clergy and State personnel would offer claims of the same scope, especially with regard to the aims of keynoting, but clergy would be dependent on statist narratives to publicly relay theological views. Second, the collectivity would be bound together after the disasters in question through an integrative narrative that universalized the American nation and stressed the local only to the extent to which it could be "nationalized." Third, the political imagination of the State would seek to create post-disaster citizenship on the basis of cultural processes that promoted an already realized national unity, economic and technical competence, and assured victory.
The analysis revealed that churches in Oklahoma City acted with greater cultural and theological autonomy after the disaster than churches in New York City. In both cases, ministers were absorbed into public performances in which they would act to support or resist the statist political imagination and its narrative. The analysis also showed that institutional de-differentiation between Church and State created a variety of ritual events, commodities, and other cultural objects that emphasized different scales of social organization as bases for unity and identity. Finally, the State was shown to provide various cultural products as resources for a national identity that embraced both a particular theology and politics. It accomplished this by means of the co-optation of church spaces, appropriation of theological narratives, and public re-assertion of assumptions about the nature and destiny of human beings.
0323: American studies
0615: Political science