The Senses of Fundamentalism: A Material History of Sensing Bodies in Early Twentieth-Century American Fundamentalism
The Senses of Fundamentalism: A Material History of Sensing Bodies in Early Twentieth-Century American Fundamentalism offers a new historical narrative about the rise of fundamentalism. I argue that sensing bodies laid the foundation of fundamentalism. New kinds of Christian sensory practices around the turn of the twentieth century established the shared frames of reference that allowed a broad fundamentalist coalition to emerge. Fundamentalists felt their faith in their guts.
Each chapter of this work explores the role of one of the senses in fundamentalist life: sight, hearing, touch, and the spiritual senses. Using visual and material evidence, I explore how fundamentalists trained their eyes to see truth from dispensationalist charts, how they taught their ears to hear the voice of God on radios and phonograph records, how they regulated and controlled contact between gendered bodies through clothing, and how they honed their bodies to sense spiritual presences.
Using the methods of visual and material culture studies of religion, I examine the how specific sensory practices structured the everyday realities of fundamentalist life. I examine the specifics of how sensation operated in fundamentalist religious practice. Current studies of fundamentalism tend to treat the movement as primarily concerned with intellectual matters. My material and visual history of fundamentalism intervenes in the historiography to show that efforts to describe fundamentalism as an intellectual movement have excluded important bodies of data. By studying ideas and doctrines, scholars have too long presumed that fundamentalists forbade material forms of religious devotion or disregarded bodies altogether. My work materializes the study of early fundamentalism, exploring how material objects and sensory practices undergird traditional concepts like “belief,” “theology,” or “literalism.” This project recovers sensing bodies as the cornerstone of fundamentalism.
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