Oh, when the state comes marching in: The theopolitics of disaster in sociological perspective

2006 2006

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Abstract (summary)

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.

Indexing (details)

Social structure;
American studies;
Political science
0700: Social structure
0323: American studies
0318: Religion
0615: Political science
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Churches; Disaster; Institutional differentiation; Theopolitics
Oh, when the state comes marching in: The theopolitics of disaster in sociological perspective
Santos, Gabriel A.
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 67/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Aguirre, Benigno A.
University of Delaware
University location
United States -- Delaware
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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