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The Habit of Meeting Together: Enacting Masculinity in a Men's Bible Study

Abstract

In American evangelical culture, men’s Bible studies are a key site for negotiating and reproducing ideologies about ‘godly masculinity.’ Here, the ideal of an evangelical man is modeled, tried on, and held up for inspection. In their gender performances, these young men draw from three different models of masculinity, each with its own superaddressee (Bakhtin, 1981) and gender schedule (Goffman, 1977). The two more widely-used models are associated with a more hegemonic young American masculinity and with an evangelical model of masculinity— models which directly conflict with one another in terms of their prescriptions for masculinity. Through such strategies as competitive but self-deprecating narration, use of military and sexual analogies, and humor rooted in the Bible, the men are able to simultaneously draw from these two conflicting models. In their interactions, these men also creatively navigate between the two by appealing to a highly local third model of masculinity associated with their local congregation. This model, which offers semiotic resources from ‘hipster’ or ‘intellectual’ culture, resists both of the more widely-used models.

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