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The Reproduction of Growth-Oriented Churches: Korean American Churches and the Politics of Infrastructure

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Seo Dae-Seung

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Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University
Korean Anthropology Review, Vol.7, pp. 35-64
This article uses an approach based on the politics of infrastructure to
demonstrate how Korean American churches still function according to a
growth-oriented ideology that prioritizes the growth of individual churches,
despite calls for them to adopt a more active role in helping the Korean American
community since the 1992 Los Angeles riots. To analyze this phenomenon, the
article addresses a conflict that arose over a parking lot site when the senior
pastors preaching and leadership, intangible elements of church infrastructure,
failed to translate into tangible infrastructure. I define the charismatic leadership
of the senior pastor, represented by his preaching and regarded in Korean
American churches as the main form of infrastructure driving church growth, as
intangible infrastructure. I then examine how, when this intangible infrastructure
translates successfully into church growth, linguistic and material infrastructure
become a part of transcendental religiousness and remain invisible and, by
contrast, how, when such translation fails to take place, the human and secular
qualities of infrastructure become visible as objects of dispute. This article
focuses specifically on the parking lot site that became a key cause of conflict in
one Korean American church and how the site acquired prominence in the
course of the churchs internal dispute.
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