Alexandria Digital Research Library

Spiritual Citizenship : Transcending the Boundaries of National Belonging

Guzman, Melissa
Degree Grantor:
University of California, Santa Barbara. Sociology
Degree Supervisor:
Denise Segura
Place of Publication:
[Santa Barbara, Calif.]
University of California, Santa Barbara
Creation Date:
Issued Date:
Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Sociology, Social Structure and Development, and Religion, History of.
Sociology of religion
Dissertations, Academic and Online resources
Ph.D.--University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014

My project is an ethnography that examines how religious forms of belonging frame the everyday experiences of immigrants in the U.S. I analyze how religion and faith help Mexican and Central American immigrants understand, interpret, and confront the challenges of living in American society. I conducted twelve months of participant-observation and 45 in-depth interviews with members of Fuente de Luz, an Apostolic Pentecostal congregation that is located in a poor, predominately Mexican neighborhood in Fresno, California.

In my dissertation, I draw parallels between the processes of religious belonging and national belonging. I ask two key questions: How is religious participation intertwined with the process of learning and becoming recognized as part of the U.S.? How is the idea of citizenship produced and enacted in the context of religious institutions?

Even though an individual may not have a formal citizenship status in the U.S., adopting the moral parameters of a congregation like Fuente de Luz can condition individuals as political subjects in the American social order. The requirements of becoming Apostolic and becoming a spiritual citizen can parallel normative forms of becoming a subject of a nation: i.e. not questioning the status quo; neutralizing political organizing or dissent; blaming personal choices and moral flaws for the inequalities of their own neighborhoods. Learning to become a recognized member of this religious congregation corresponds with what's expected of becoming an American citizen: both processes entail new affiliations that transform and (to some extent) discipline individuals into leaving behind past ethnic/cultural/national ties.

Religious practices become important because they give immigrants access to new worldviews that incorporate them into a dominant American political ideology. Through becoming religious, immigrants develop specific roles and models for participating in American society. Religion and faith play a vital role in the lives of first-generation Mexican and Central American immigrants---especially as they construct ideas about citizenship and national belonging in the U.S. Through their active religious participation, immigrants make changes to their lifestyles, behaviors, speech, and worldviews. The ongoing process of becoming an active member of a religious community inspires immigrants to articulate what it means to live and thrive in the U.S.

Physical Description:
1 online resource (223 pages)
UCSB electronic theses and dissertations
Catalog System Number:
Inc.icon only.dark In Copyright
Copyright Holder:
Melissa Guzman
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