Exploratory and Planning Meeting

On June 23 of 2006, a select group of scholars from around the world convened in Claremont in order to shape the project and define its terms.

The aim of the project is to document and critically analyze the rise, spread and consequences of the phenomenon of “scriptural fundamentalism” among selected contemporary U.S. racial-ethnic minority groups—Arab Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and Latino/as. The fieldwork will involve observation, recording, and filming selected persons and groups as they engage in their practices, forms of expressions, rituals, and performances involving “scriptures.”

Further, this ethnographic excavation project aims to throw light upon how texts shape communities and communities shape texts. The ultimate aim of the project is to excavate peoples’ experiences and worldviews, to discover what they think and how they think, what they practice—and with what consequences. The following are questions are the questions the field workers and research directors are using to think with and develop further in their ethnographic research:

• How did particular groups, finding themselves in situations in which they have “minority” status thrust upon them, first make contact with the texts that are called “scriptures”?
• What are some of the identifiable assumptions about, and patterns and types of their engagements of, such “scriptures”?
• When and under what circumstances did their engagements of “scriptures” begin to reflect fundamentalist ideologies and orientations?
• Under what circumstances and in what ways do these engagements reflect, contribute to or undermine social and identity formation, social agency and power, and orientation to society and culture?
• In what ways did these terms of engagement change over time?
• How should these changes be characterized? Why did such changes occur?
• What do these effects among such groups suggest about the general social-cultural phenomenon of making and engaging “scriptures”?

This project culminated in a conference presentation of findings, "Reading Scriptures, Reading America"

The project is led by the Institute for Signifying Scriptures director, Vincent L. Wimbush, also a professor in Religion at Claremont Graduate University. The following is a list of the research directors, field researchers, and consultants.

African Americans
Research Director: Velma Love, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Arab Americans
Research Director: Nadine Naber, Professor in the American Culture Program at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Asian Americans
Research Director: Tat-Siong Benny Liew, Associate Professor of New Testament at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.

Latino/as
Research Director: Efraín Agosto, Professor of New Testament and Director, Programa de Ministerios Hispanos at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.

Native Americans
Research Director: Andrea Lee Smith, Assistant Professor of American Culture and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Consultants:

Lourdes Argüelles, Professor of Education and Cultural Studies at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California

Hans Baer, Lecturer in the School of Anthropology, Geography, and Environmental Studies and the Centre for Health and Society at the University of Melbourne, Australia

Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, Associate Professor of Religious Education at the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California

Grey Gundaker, Associate Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia

Russell Jeung, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, California

James Kyung-Jin Lee, Assistant Professor of English and Asian American studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Sharon A. Suh, Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington


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