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Finding Spirit: A Non-Representational Ethnography of the Affective Geographies of Religion at Bethel Church

JOINER, ABIGAIL,JAYNE (2021) Finding Spirit: A Non-Representational Ethnography of the Affective Geographies of Religion at Bethel Church. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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In the West, Christianity is transitioning away from institutionalised religion towards more personal forms of belief where material and embodied experiences of the divine – or spirit – are valorised. Despite this representing both a generational and cultural shift in Christian practices, little is known about how spirit forms and informs everyday life – generating experiential knowledges through which people sense and make sense of the world around them. Finding Spirit therefore sits within this gap, engaging with the seemingly immaterial but nevertheless deeply consequential dimensions of religious experience that the social sciences struggle to adequately relate to, such as spirit. Underpinned by theories of affect, Finding Spirit is an ethnography of ordinary life at Bethel; an independent Californian mega-church that teaches believers how to live naturally, supernatural lifestyles. As it explores the affective geographies of how spirit is sensed, experienced and encountered in everyday, ordinary Bethel life this thesis moves beyond the notion of spirit as a distant, otherworldly entity or a paranormal experience that occurs outside of religious belief. Essentially, Finding Spirit argues that paying attention to more-than-human relations with spirit creates opportunities to further explore affective and emotional lived experience. Drawing upon non-representational theories, Finding Spirit embraces a sense of creativity as it aims to develop methodologies that are better attuned to find spirit in the lived, sensed and in motion more-than-human worlds of Bethel. For instance, it employs a non-linear, snapshot writing style that fluctuates between the empirical and the theoretical throughout as well as experimenting with a critical disposition or mood of ‘friendliness’ as an alternative to critique. Finding Spirit therefore enriches Geography’s understandings of affective life by highlighting reality as heterogenous as well as adding to knowledges on how researchers might relate to the affectivity of becoming submerged in these alternative worldings in the field.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Affect; religion; spirit; non-representational; christianity
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 May 2021 12:24

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