"Coming Alongside": Relatedness and Transcendence in a (Black) Atlantic Church Community

Chipumuro, Todne Thomas, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
McKinnon, Susan, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Bashkow, Ira, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Mentore, George, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Vickerman, Milton, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia
Hoehler-Fatton, Cynthia, Department of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the sacred relationships constituted by the members of a West Indian and African American evangelical congregation in the Atlanta area. Though kinship has been anthropologically defined as the product of shared biogenetic substance, this ethnography demonstrates the ways in which church members also render kinship as the product of shared spiritual status. By applying the framework of relatedness to investigate the discourses, spaces, and practices that give rise to this set of relationships, this study demonstrates the ways in which the social domains of kinship and religion dynamically intersect to generate a closely-knit form of religious belonging for this migrant community. Moreover, by illustrating the ways in which church members' encounters with the sacred can be a social affair rather than just an individual matter, this project also foregrounds the religious logic, meanings, and investments informing their aspirations for familial religious connection. Over the course of my analysis of the social ties interconnecting spiritual brothers, sisters, parents, prayer partners, and genealogical relatives that mediate the lived religious experiences of this constituency, I argue that transcendent relatedness emerges locally as the processes by which members create and sustain relationships between persons across the distinguishing lines of social collectives, and contexts. As a local term, "coming alongside" refers to the intensification of religious fellowship as members navigate major life crises and transitions. Yet, "coming alongside" also presents an image of the ways in which the processes constitutive of transcendent relatedness ideally create relationships of intimacy and vulnerability, equality and laterality, growth and edification against a backdrop of social disjuncture, social difference, and increasing mobility fueled by globalization.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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