A Beautiful and Troubled Inheritance

We’re back home now, and our pilgrimage is over, although the reading and metabolizing will continue. We’re truly the beneficiaries of a beautiful and troubled inheritance. And we’re more convinced than ever that story and history matter. As sociologist Christian Smith, one of Lisa’s grad school professors, has written:

We are makers, tellers, and believers of narrative construals of existence and history, every bit as much as our forebears at any other time of human history. Furthermore, we are not only animals who make stories, but also animals who are made by our stories. We tell and retell narratives that themselves come fundamentally to constitute and direct our lives.

The lines at Schiphol Airport were very, very long. We got there five hours early and still made it to our gate just twenty minutes before boarding.
Back to real life

We plan to use what we’ve learned on this journey in our teaching. Lisa will use her biography and visual ethnography in units highlighting cultural legacies through food preferences and religious symbolism. I plan to narrate parts of my genealogy as a way of introducing students to trans-Atlantic elements of early American history.

We’re also thinking of team-teaching a course called something like “Pilgrimage, History, and Social Identity.” It would integrate historical perspectives and methodologies with sociological theory (i.e. Geertz’s work on symbolism, Bourdieu’s field theory, world systems theory, etc.). In addition to wide-ranging interdisciplinary readings, students would construct their own pilgrimage using archival sources, genealogy, art, food, and music to explore the intersection of history, memory, and social cohesion.

We’re going to sign off Facebook and our blog for now. But we’ll be working hard on more projects. Stay tuned for the release this fall of Lisa’s book Stained Glass Ceilings: How Evangelicals Do Gender and Practice Power. Then a year later my next book comes out. It’s a biography of a Confederate statue in Jessamine County, Kentucky, that explores how Civil War memory has evolved over time. In the meantime, Lisa and I will finish a co-authored book on the American evangelical antitrafficking movement in Southeast Asia. Our hope is to do one more set of field interviews in Thailand next summer that focuses on the pandemic. So look for a new series of “Signs of the Thais” a year from now—and then a book set in Cambodia and Thailand the year after.


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