Abstract

Abstract:

This article offers an analysis of Prairie consumer culture and its development in the region, arguing for the utility of regional analysis in understanding how popular culture and consumerism have influenced religious history, and neoliberal social history more broadly, over time. Unlike some other regions of North America, the Canadian Prairies were once characterized by the widespread influence of Protestant social gospel thought, which was, if not outright anti-capitalist, amenable to socialism and rooted in cooperative ethics. This has changed in the latter half of the twentieth century into the twenty-first, where the region is now well known for being a bastion of Canadian conservatism. It has also seen a sharp increase in people stating that they have no religion. Foregrounding this transformation in the context of the significant socio-economic change of the Prairies, this article analyzes the increasing social valuation of individualism, the connotations that "religion" has for historical actors, and the growing influence of consumerism. A case study of the West Edmonton Mall illustrates how vital consumerism and the segregation of social desire is to the Prairie region and the importance of the myths, symbols, and rituals that are cultivated within such spaces. As such, the dreams offered by contemporary popular culture and individualist spiritualities have—over the course of the twentieth century—replaced those offered by the social gospel and farmer's political parties. This article concludes by suggesting that comparison of the different regions of North America can aid in more deeply understanding how popular culture and consumerism have influenced their religious history.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1703-289X
Print ISSN
1703-289X
Pages
pp. 1-15
Launched on MUSE
2021-04-10
Open Access
No
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