• Go Into All the World: Moral-Subject Formation through Evangelical Short-Term Missions from the United States to the Dominican Republic

      Garrett, Paul B., 1968-; Rey, Terry; Stankiewicz, Damien, 1980-; Elisha, Omri, 1972- (Temple University. Libraries, 2021)
      Each year, four million Americans travel abroad as participants in short-term missions (STMs), the religious branch of the billion-dollar volunteer-tourism industry. Rooted in 13 months of multi-sited ethnographic research, this dissertation examines evangelical STMs in the Dominican Republic as vehicles for evangelization and voluntarism in the contexts of postcolonial tourism and the production of sugar for the global market. In doing so, it also examines STMs as important sites of religious socialization for American participants, particularly, socialization of moral ideologies. These moral ideologies, expressed and performed through the discursive practices, religious rituals, and routinized cross-cultural interactions that are characteristic of STMs, (re)create and justify unequal power relations between Americans and Dominicans. STMs expose American volunteers to striking socioeconomic and racial inequalities, which could powerfully (re)shape their worldviews by raising their awareness, for example, of the exploitative working and living conditions behind a ubiquitous commodity, sugar. However, STM leaders and volunteers conceptualize these inequalities in ways that are inconsistent or contradictory, disconnected from their understandings of inequality back home, and decontextualized from broader processes and systems, including colonialism and contemporary global capitalism. The personal narratives and the religious and economic discourses that are (re)produced during STMs shape American participants’ understandings of inequalities and cultivate a moral subjectivity in which they are divinely charged with the responsibility of ameliorating others’ poverty, lack of social welfare, and poor living conditions. STM discourses and practices thus legitimize forms of charitable giving that may actually contribute to poverty and inequality by concealing Americans’ pre-existing socioeconomic relations with Dominicans. Amid heightened efforts to dismantle social welfare in the US, it is increasingly important to deconstruct ideologies and practices of giving in order to understand why evangelical Christians prefer charity, which provides only partial and temporary relief at best, over other methods that could provide more sustainable and transformative solutions to poverty and inequality. The research presented in this dissertation reveals that, despite what participants believe to be their moral intentions and good works, STMs work in various ways to perpetuate inequalities between sending and receiving countries.