the creationism museum: lessons for social movement theory
This summer, Casey Oberlin finished her Ph.D. and she will soon join the sociology faculty of Grinnell College. Her dissertation is a fascinating study of the Creationism Museum in Kentucky. It’s hard to do proper service to such a rich work, but I’d like to summarize some key points for students of social movements and organizations.
Roughly speaking, one branch of the creationist movement has decided to drop conventional politics and instead spend their resources on a museum. This is an interesting issue – why would a museum be viewed as a viable movement strategy? A few key points from Casey’s work:
- This is an example of “bypassing” where movements decide that electoral politics is limited.
- This is an example of trying to encourage cultural change.
- This is a leveraging of existing academic and intellectual structures. They don’t reject science and academia, they dispute one specific issue (evolution).
- This is an example of factionalism and organizational learning, where current creationists have decided to break off and do it differently because of previous movement failure.
There is much, much more. A nuanced work.
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