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The Making of God's Subject: Christian Conversion and Urban Youth in China

Yoo, Wonji (2019) The Making of God's Subject: Christian Conversion and Urban Youth in China. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation aims to understand the social and cultural significance of the rise of Protestant Christianity in contemporary China. My research focuses on Christian conversion among young Chinese immigrants in their twenties and thirties who migrated to Beijing in search of better educational and career opportunities, and subsequently converted to Protestant Christianity. Drawing from fifteen months of ethnographic work in Beijing, my research examines how the political, economic, and gendered experiences of young Chinese shape and are shaped by their conversion to Protestant Christianity.

In this dissertation, I argue that the conversion of young urban Chinese is the product of both socio-economic and individual processes. The conversion of urban Chinese youth to Protestant Christianity is a result of responding to post-Maoist social and economic changes including market-oriented economic reforms, urban migration, the changing moral landscape, and social expectations about gender roles. Meanwhile, the conversion of young Chinese marks the construction of new religious subjectivities. Through a variety of ritualized and disciplined practices such as praying, singing, reading the Bible, and confessing, young Chinese cultivate Christian piety and gain a new sense of self during their conversions.

I also argue that the transformative power of conversion leads young urban Chinese to reconceptualize their understandings of state politics, market economy, and gender identity. As young Chinese convert, they develop patriotic views that are distinct from state-driven nationalism but still embrace patriotic thoughts confirming their double identity both as Christian believers and Chinese citizens. With their conversions, young Chinese Christians also develop a religious view of economy that both challenges and reproduces market-driven ideology. Furthermore, Christian conversion allows young Chinese to question normative narratives about gender roles and to establish a soft type of masculinity that embraces the ideas of emotional sensitivity, intimate relationships, and male weakness.

In sum, this dissertation examines the socio-economic forces and religio-cultural logics that underlie the conversion experiences and post-conversion lives of urban Chinese youth. It contributes to the literature on religious conversion, church-state relationship, Christianity and capitalism, and masculinity.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Yoo, Wonjiwoy3@pitt.eduwoy3
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairConstable,
Committee MemberAlter,
Committee MemberChilson,
Committee MemberLukacs,
Date: 20 June 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 7 December 2018
Approval Date: 20 June 2019
Submission Date: 7 March 2019
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 253
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: conversion, subjectivity, Christian economy, gender, China
Date Deposited: 20 Jun 2019 18:07
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2019 18:07


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