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Kiva Culture: Christian Evangelicals and Online Humanitarianism

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Abstract:

“You have received a message from the Kiva-Christians team.” The message is from the microfinance charity Kiva.org, which directs loans from individual donors (mostly US and European) to small business people or cooperatives in the Global South. Kiva donors are allowed to join “teams” that reflect their interests: hometown, alma mater, favorite sport, etc. Not surprisingly, religious identity is a key organizer, and Kiva-Christians is one of the most active teams in the organization, ranking #2 among all teams in new users and amounts loaned. (The #1 group is the impressively titled “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious.” It must be said, however, that it has relatively little competition; there are fewer than 10 explicitly non-religious groups, and more than 500 Christian ones.) Kiva-Christians—which despite its name is not generically Christian but instead specifically evangelical—provides a site for fundraising and an opportunity for web-based conversation among its nearly 7,000 members.

In this paper, I will explore the role of online humanitarianism in contemporary US evangelical culture, focusing on activities that support economic development in the global south, with “development” understood as something that goes beyond traditional charity to include capacity- building. Microfinance, for example, has become a major strategy of the world’s largest international NGO, the evangelical group World Vision. In particular, I will examine the role of Kiva-Christians, World Vision’s VisionFund (one of the largest microfinance programs in the world), and the evangelical involvement in the ONE campaign in support of the UN’s Millennial Development Goals. Each of these projects includes a significant component of web-based fundraising that constructs a sense of direct and affective connection between donors and recipients.

The method of the paper will not be (only) an ideological critique of evangelical self-representation within the sites of internet activism. It will also examine how these recent iterations draw upon, and also revise, a long history of adopt-a-child Christian fundraising, looking at ads about global hunger in Christianity Today and World Vision magazines.. What kinds of affective modes are highlighted in each historical moment? And what ideas about economic development, activism, and global faith-based communities are enabled by these differing forms of communication?

The new media practices, I argue, re-brand charity as investment, drawing upon an awareness of the transformations that have made evangelicalism a global community now dominated, at least numerically, by Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These new forms of organizing depend upon a construction of horizontal community and mutual communication, evoking the language a social justice even as they confirm hierarchical relationships of power between US and non-US Christians.. The paper, then, explores how money—the unorganized but powerful money of the individual donor—matters in the changing relationships in global evangelicalism.
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Name: American Studies Association Annual Meeting
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http://www.theasa.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509383_index.html
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MLA Citation:

McAlister, Melani. "Kiva Culture: Christian Evangelicals and Online Humanitarianism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509383_index.html>

APA Citation:

McAlister, M. "Kiva Culture: Christian Evangelicals and Online Humanitarianism" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hilton Baltimore, Baltimore, MD <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p509383_index.html

Publication Type: Internal Paper
Abstract: “You have received a message from the Kiva-Christians team.” The message is from the microfinance charity Kiva.org, which directs loans from individual donors (mostly US and European) to small business people or cooperatives in the Global South. Kiva donors are allowed to join “teams” that reflect their interests: hometown, alma mater, favorite sport, etc. Not surprisingly, religious identity is a key organizer, and Kiva-Christians is one of the most active teams in the organization, ranking #2 among all teams in new users and amounts loaned. (The #1 group is the impressively titled “Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious.” It must be said, however, that it has relatively little competition; there are fewer than 10 explicitly non-religious groups, and more than 500 Christian ones.) Kiva-Christians—which despite its name is not generically Christian but instead specifically evangelical—provides a site for fundraising and an opportunity for web-based conversation among its nearly 7,000 members.

In this paper, I will explore the role of online humanitarianism in contemporary US evangelical culture, focusing on activities that support economic development in the global south, with “development” understood as something that goes beyond traditional charity to include capacity- building. Microfinance, for example, has become a major strategy of the world’s largest international NGO, the evangelical group World Vision. In particular, I will examine the role of Kiva-Christians, World Vision’s VisionFund (one of the largest microfinance programs in the world), and the evangelical involvement in the ONE campaign in support of the UN’s Millennial Development Goals. Each of these projects includes a significant component of web-based fundraising that constructs a sense of direct and affective connection between donors and recipients.

The method of the paper will not be (only) an ideological critique of evangelical self-representation within the sites of internet activism. It will also examine how these recent iterations draw upon, and also revise, a long history of adopt-a-child Christian fundraising, looking at ads about global hunger in Christianity Today and World Vision magazines.. What kinds of affective modes are highlighted in each historical moment? And what ideas about economic development, activism, and global faith-based communities are enabled by these differing forms of communication?

The new media practices, I argue, re-brand charity as investment, drawing upon an awareness of the transformations that have made evangelicalism a global community now dominated, at least numerically, by Africa, Asia, and Latin America. These new forms of organizing depend upon a construction of horizontal community and mutual communication, evoking the language a social justice even as they confirm hierarchical relationships of power between US and non-US Christians.. The paper, then, explores how money—the unorganized but powerful money of the individual donor—matters in the changing relationships in global evangelicalism.


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