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Title:New Bolivians, New Bolivia: Pentecostal Conversion and Neoliberal Transformation in Contemporary Bolivia
Author(s):Wightman, Jill Marie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Orta, Andrew
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Sociology, Social Structure and Development
Abstract:Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Cochabamba, Bolivia, this dissertation analyzes discourses of transformation among Pentecostal Christians within the context of recent neoliberal social and economic reforms that have drastically altered Bolivian society. These reforms have caused immense suffering among Bolivia's impoverished majority and placed increasing pressures on the middle and working classes, as they struggle to provide for themselves and their families. The recently intensified rise in Pentecostalism is correlative with the social and political impact of these reforms, and I argue that Pentecostalism is one way in which marginalized Bolivians are creating new identities and building new coalitions in the face of a changing social order and a diminished relationship with the state. To this end, I examine two intersecting processes of change central to the understanding what is at stake for Bolivian Pentecostals: (1) personal transformation as effected and marked by "born-again" conversion; and (2) social transformation as promised by the rhetoric of a "new Bolivia" as Pentecostals seek to remake Bolivian society in their own image. I argue that social engagement on the part of Bolivian Pentecostals can be understood by looking at the ways in which Pentecostals conceive of conversion---not only as being "born again," but as being "healed." The Pentecostal discourse on suffering and illness is not generally that of rewards in the afterlife, but rather emphasizes healing and other forms of personal and social transformation in the present. It provides a framework for thinking about the suffering and lack of opportunity that come with poverty and living in the Third World and a practical mode of action through which many Bolivian Pentecostals attempt to effect both personal and social change. This transformational project extends to the global level as well. Bolivian Pentecostals are engaging with discourses of globalization, both through reinterpreting the secular processes and hegemonic meanings of globalization through a lens of "end-times" theology, and through understanding themselves as part of a global evangelical Christian movement.
Issue Date:2008
Description:283 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2008.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3314937
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2008

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