Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Note on Translations and Names

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pp. ix-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xv

This book represents the efforts, goodwill, and resources of so many people that I share William James’s fear that if I acknowledge them all, my readers will say, “How could such mammoth moanings have released such a mouse?” But I’ll risk it, as without the good faith and support of these people this book would not have reached fruition. Needless to say, ...

Part I. Beginnings

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1. Making Sense of Cultural Agency

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pp. 3-15

Jorge was born in the Afro-Venezuelan coastal region of Barlovento and as a child moved with his family to Petare, the massive group of barrios at the eastern end of Caracas. At fourteen he dropped out of school to work and help his mother support eleven brothers and sisters. During Jorge’s formative years, Petare evolved from a slum with grinding poverty into a ...

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2. The Venezuelan Context: Confronting La Crisis

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pp. 16-43

One of the few places you can still perceive the colonial past in Caracas is the downtown Plaza Bolívar. Colonial Spanish authorities always located a plaza at the center of the city, and here it is inevitably named after “the liberator,” Simón Bolívar. Caracas’s Plaza Bolívar has a triumphant equestrian statue of Bolívar at its center and is surrounded by a wrought iron ...

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Part II. Imaginative Rationality

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pp. 45-53

The question of whether people can decide to believe not only affects our understanding of Evangelicalism and empowerment in Latin America; it runs through the center of contemporary sociological research on culture and religion. In the past twenty-five years approaches that portray people as strategic actors who consciously choose their meanings have ...

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3. Imagining Social Life I: Confronting Akrasia, Crime, and Violence

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pp. 55-76

Participant observation in hundreds of services and events, as well as with church members in everyday life over the course of three years, left me with little doubt that hardship and suffering have permanent seats in Venezuelan Evangelical discourse. Exhortations to gain control of one’s life through Jesus Christ were mixed with warnings of what will happen ...

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4. Imagining Social Life II: Addressing Personal and Social Issues

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pp. 77-99

The complex of substance abuse, gambling, crime, and violence described in the previous chapter constitutes the most common reason the men I studied gave for conversion to Evangelicalism. Leaving the analysis there would amount to a serious distortion. Often the problems leading to conversion are simply acute versions of the issues of personal development ...

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5. Imagining Evangelical Practice

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pp. 100-152

In the preceding chapters I showed that Evangelical religious practice can fit into projects of self-reform among poor Caracas men. But I am yet to address the most difficult question: how can people intentionally adopt a set of religious beliefs and practices in order to confront life problems? The tradition of thought that defines religion and culture in contradistinction ...

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Part III. Relational Imagination

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pp. 153-156

An adequate theory of cultural agency needs both a nonreductionist concept of culture as something that can have an independent impact and a concept of human agency in which people can adopt cultural meanings because they understand these impacts. I have argued that such a theory can be built on the concept of imaginative rationality. In some situations ...

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6. The Social Structure of Conversion

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pp. 157-183

Gabriel has suffered from epileptic seizures for most of his life. When he was a boy he worked for seven years in a shoe-repair factory. In his context it was a decent job that provided resources for his poor family; and his cousin would fill in for him when his health made it impossible to work. However, at fifteen he was in one of Caracas’s nightmarish bus accidents ...

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7. Two Lives, Five Years Later

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pp. 184-207

Chapter 6 provided a relational analysis of Evangelical conversion based on a comparable sample of Evangelical and non-Evangelical men. The relatively large size of this sample allowed me to render the variety of relational situations that facilitate or prevent Evangelical conversion. Here I want to look more deeply into these issues by focusing on two ...

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8. Toward a Relational Pragmatic Theory of Cultural Agency

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pp. 208-222

My analysis suggests that the distinctions social scientists make between empowerment and moral order, self-interest and morality, calculation and contemplation need to be rethought. Among Evangelical men in Caracas, religion does not begin with disinterest. It begins with dis-ease that is consciously and rationally addressed through religious practice. ...

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Epilogue

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pp. 223-224

My last visit to Caracas in January 2006 allowed me to catch up on some of the people and spaces analyzed in this book. Ramiro, his wife, and their two daughters moved to a small town in the Andes so that he could become the pastor of an Emmanuel Federation church—representing a radical change from the dangerous Caracas barrio they left. The move ...

Appendix A. Status of Evangelical Respondents after Five Years

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pp. 225-227

Appendix B. Methods and Methodology

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pp. 228-236

Appendix C. Quantitative Analysis of Networks and Conversion

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pp. 237-242

Glossary of Spanish Terms

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pp. 243-244

References

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pp. 245-258

Index

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pp. 259-262

Production Notes

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pp. 263-263