Winner, 2018 Section on Asia and Asian America Book Award presented by the American Sociological Association
Traces the religious adaptation of members of an important Indian Christian church– the Mar Thoma denomination – as they make their way in the United States.
This book exposes how a new paradigm of ethnicity and religion, and the megachurch phenomenon, is shaping contemporary immigrant religious institutions, specifically Indian American Christianity. Kurien draws on multi-site research in the US and India to provide a global perspective on religion by demonstrating the variety of ways that transnational processes affect religious organizations and the lives of members, both in the place of destination and of origin.
The widespread prevalence of megachurches and the dominance of American evangelicalism created an environment in which the traditional practices of the ancient South Indian Mar Thoma denomination seemed alien to its American-born generation. Many of the young adults left to attend evangelical megachurches. Kurien examines the pressures church members face to incorporate contemporary American evangelical worship styles into their practice, including an emphasis on an individualistic faith, and praise and worship services, often at the expense of maintaining the ethnic character and support system of their religious community.
Kurien’s sophisticated analysis also demonstrates how the forces of globalization, from the period of colonialism to contemporary out-migration, have brought about tremendous changes among Christian communities in the Global South. Wide in scope, this book is a must read for an audience interested in the study of global religions and cultures.
"Many Americans miss the significant presence of Indian Christians who worship in immigrant ethnic faith communities or in predominantly white evangelical ones that often rely on their presence to promote their racially-inclusive vision. Kurien provides a fascinating look into this overlooked community, insightfully revealing the challenges of recreating a religious culture thousands of miles from its origin, adapting to an increasingly global and diasporic community, and retaining among the second-generation an identity with a religious culture that appears backward and insular compared to its bigger, flashier, and more racially integrated counterpart. An absolute must-read." ~Jerry Z. Park,Associate Professor of Sociology, Baylor University
"Though rooted in analysis of Mar Thoma, Kuriens work provides a useful theoretical language for thinking about big-picture immigration trends. As such, this book is a must read for those interested in immigration, migration, and transnationalism broadly as well as religion." ~Choice
"Like Prema Kuriens previous books, this one is thoroughly researched, tackling a huge topic with impressive scholarship. And it poses an unsettling question: Is a one-size-fits-all, take-it-or-leave-it version of Christianity the wave of the future? Or is America big enough to embrace a growing multiplicity of ethno-religious traditions?" ~Robert Wuthnow,Princeton University
"With careful fieldwork done over decades in two countries, Prema Kuriens work will serve as a model for how to do sociological and ethnographic work within immigrant communities that remain in robust connection to their countries of origin, even as they try to find their footing in their new home. A must read for all who seek to understand the transformation of American religious life under the pressures of migration and globalization!" ~John J. Thatamanil,Associate Professor of Theology and World Religions, Union Theological Seminary
"Kurien’s Ethnic Church Meets Megachurch supplies the field with an important sociological account of the transnational religious and ethnic contestations within the Mar Thoma church, a Syrian Christian church based in Kerala. Her extensive ethnographic research, dating back to 1999, is a refreshingly data-rich study that is longitudinally oriented in its inclusion of the extensive history of the Mar Thoma church since its inception in the early decades of the Christian era. It is also a geographically cross-sectional study in its attention to the transnational intersections between the Mar Thoma church in India and in the United States. Kurien’s data reveals that research on religion and ethnicity in the United States must account for generational differences and specific nuances of a particular ethnic denomination’s negotiations in multicultural America." ~Journal of Hindu-Christian Studies
"It is continually amazing that immigrants’ religious lives have not received more attention within the sociology of immigration. Prema Kurien’s latest book, Ethnic Church Meets Megachurch, takes on a key topic within the sociology of immigration and of religion — namely, how immigrants across generations form religious belonging both with and separate from the mainstream… Overall, Kurien’s book furthers the case that religion serves as an agent, not merely a context or setting, and can be a central vehicle through which to study immigration." ~International Migration Review
"Kurien has produced a readable, fascinating book about ethnicity, gender, and religion ‘in motion.’ She draws on a rich body of interview data to explore the contentious relationships that shape and re-shape the global, diasporic faith-based communities… As always, Kurien adopts a sophisticated approach to transnationalism that highlights the back and forth direction of change and that recognizes the longue duree of globalization. Most importantly, she shows social changes wrought by immigration are always, if only partly, a matter of immigrant agency." ~Sociology of Religion
"Prema Kurien’s case study makes a unique contribution to this line of literature... the book provides a theoretically rich and empirically valuable description of Indian American megachurches, which serve as a refuge from the downward mobility, racism, and cultural misunderstandings in American society... the book is a great contribution to the sociology of religion, immigration, and Asian American studies" ~Journal of Asian American Studies
"The book illustrates the immense payoff of a transnational, global approach for understanding the movements of religion and people. Many works focus on transnationalism to be sure, but this book convincingly shows why it is an absolute necessity. Such an approach over many years of study provides us a rich tale of change and causality." ~American Journal of Sociology