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Anne Warfield Rawls


This dissertation reports on a comparative ethnographic analysis of two Assemblies of God mega-churches and their socio-geographic position. It focuses on the social construction of religious experience through ritual practices and connects these practices to greater society through the issues of racial segregation and integration. Local history, urban stories, census data, and projections of economic development are used to contextualize the ethnographic data into their urban environment. In this way, I work to integrate micro-structural processes with macro-structural inequalities within the metropolitan area of Detroit. The dissertation is composed of three empirical projects. First, a general process of revivalistic worship that expands specific situations is delineated, by uniting an ethnomethodological method of researching social process with Durkheim's theoretical development of ritual practice. What is common to revivalistic rituals is described and discussed in relationship to religious ecstasy. Second, the specific structure of the local order is inspected through an analysis of the social construction of appropriate and inappropriate expressions of the Holy Spirit during Sunday services. Enacted understandings of appropriate spiritual expressions are found to be congregation/social group specific. Thus, it is theorized that the integration of two or more racial groups may lead to conflict and accommodation on the social process of spiritual discernment. Some evidence is found that this is the case in the two churches studied, as they are racially integrating. Third, the twin issues of racial segregation and racial integration are inspected by comparing the different ways that these two churches have adapted to and expanded in metropolitan Detroit: one through white fight and a "color-blind" mission of evangelism to first generation Christians, and the other to urban outreach and "racial reconciliation." Each of these empirical projects is an analysis of a witnessable social situation that individuals enter and experience in common.

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