Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > (Re)Sounding Passion: Listening to American Evangelical Worship Music, 1997-2015
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This dissertation is an ethnographic and phenomenological analysis of evangelical "praise and worship music," a pop-styled liturgical music that has experienced a meteoric rise among American evangelicals in recent years. I specifically center my analysis on one of the influential evangelical media networks on the planet: the Passion Conferences (also known as Passion268 or the 268 Generation). Fundamentally, this dissertation is concerned with the ways in which the material culture of praise and worship music--specifically the video and audio recordings, songbooks, and supplementary prose materials--is mobilized into larger discourses of meaning and identity within evangelical communities of practice. By using a variety of ethnographic and phenomenological methodologies, I examine how mass-mediated worship music functions as a primary theological discourse, provides strong sites of affiliation in a post-denominational context, shapes worshippers' embodied self-understandings, and interfaces with the complex web of late-capitalist market structures. Throughout the dissertation, I attempt to move the study of congregational music-making away from the notion that religious belief is primarily propositional or even "rational" and towards an examination of how belief consists in the affective, lived experiences of the religious practice. Religious music is instrumental in shaping "belief," not merely through its ability to preserve theological texts, but also in its ability to accomplish specific and essential theological work through communal experiences of sound. My concern with experiences in and around practicing Christian communities leads me to adopt an ethnographic stance in which practitioners' experiences with religious music-making are placed front and center. The centrality of religion within the human experience as well as its importance in political and social structuring means that my research deals with music as it functions at the most personally and culturally significant junctures of human identity formation. By understanding how Christian communities are always worshipping with everything in their sensory toolkit, my work offers new ways of understanding embodied religious experience as well as the formations of community and identity that congregational music-making provides to so many.