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No Part of the World: How Jehovah's Witnesses Perform the Boundaries of their Community

  • Author(s): Blankholm, JL
  • et al.
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License
Abstract

Relying on fieldwork conducted in the United States and Zambia, as well as analyses of Jehovah’s Witness literature and academic scholarship, this essay uses the Witness distinction between the Truth and the World as a way to think through the ways they perform the boundaries of their community. When speaking to fellow insiders, Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to their religion as the Truth, while when speaking to outsiders they almost never use this term. The Truth/World distinction is Witnesses’ own description of their ingroup/outgroup relations. The first part of the essay focuses on the ways in which Jehovah’s Witnesses perform and affirm their identities through their rituals, including rigorous practices of study. The second part of the essay argues that by abstaining from worldly rituals like holidays and voting, Witnesses invite the larger society in which they are embedded to see them as set apart. Thus for Witnesses, the boundaries of their community are dually constituted, both from within and without.

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