The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Creation of Moral Authority: Top-Down Textual Economy and the Use of Indigenous Languages
Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of California, Los Angeles

Primary Discipline

Churches, like schools, are educational institutions that reach an enormous number of people. This is particularly true of authoritarian groups like Jehovah's Witnesses, who base their religion on a vast array of written texts and consider religious activity ``study`` rather than ``worship.`` Witnesses have been publishing tracts and magazines in multiple languages for some time, but the extension to indigenous languages without a long tradition of literacy is a recent initiative, and has not been widely studied (Hansen 2010; Mubimba 1987). Furthermore, the longstanding centrality of study and education takes on new meaning in the context of this language policy change. To explore this phenomenon, I conducted a nine-month ethnographic study in a rural Chontal community in Oaxaca, Mexico, as well as shorter periods of comparative fieldwork with an urban Chontal-language congregation, and interviews at Watchtower Society national and international headquarters in Mexico City and New York.
About Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

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