American World Visions of Vulnerability: The Sacred, the Secular, and Roots of Evangelical American Aid

Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability

ISBN: 978-1-78769-176-6, eISBN: 978-1-78769-175-9

ISSN: 0190-1281

Publication date: 14 December 2018


In this article, I analyze constructions of and responses to vulnerability in the US government and a now-prominent evangelical aid organization, World Vision, during the 1950s and 1960s in Korea and Vietnam. World Vision was founded as the “development discourse,” Cold War rhetoric, and the neo-evangelical movement were all rising to prominence in the United States. World Vision’s early understandings of vulnerability resonated with Cold War and modernization theory rhetoric in certain ways; however, its approaches to remake vulnerable Asians were often distinct. World Vision evangelical Christians looked to private voluntary organizations and individual conversions in a free society to remake individuals and nations, notions not so different from neoliberal development approaches today. US foreign aid approaches were rooted in nation-building for centralized, planned government institutions and economies to modernize “traditional” people. This article examines the complex relationships between missionaries, evangelists, US foreign aid experts and the military in American constructions of vulnerable traditional Asians and interventions to modernize and Christianize them. In examining roots of faith-based development models through the case of World Vision and notions of vulnerability, historical threads and lineages emerge for understanding the relationship of religion and the state in modernizing projects, and faith-based and neoliberal development models.



Henquinet, K. (2018), "American World Visions of Vulnerability: The Sacred, the Secular, and Roots of Evangelical American Aid", Individual and Social Adaptations to Human Vulnerability (Research in Economic Anthropology, Vol. 38), Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 199-222.

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