Harding, Susan Friend 1946–
HARDING, Susan Friend 1946–
PERSONAL: Born September 2, 1946, in Columbus, OH; daughter of Harold Friend (a professor) and Elizabeth (a nutritionist; maiden name, Reeves) Harding. Education: University of Michigan, B.A., 1968, M.A., 1971, Ph.D., 1977; Columbia University, certificate in anthropology, 1969.
ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Agent—Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency, Inc., 145 West 86th St., New York, NY 10024.
CAREER: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, lecturer, 1974–77, assistant professor, 1977–84, associate professor of anthropology, 1984–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Award for analytical-descriptive studies, American Academy of Religions, 2001, for The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics.
Remaking Ibieca: Rural Life in Aragon under Franco, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 1984.
(Editor, with Charles Bright) Statemaking and Social Movements, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1984.
The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Anthropologist Susan Friend Harding explores the ramifications of social, political, and cultural changes on a small village's people in her book Remaking Ibieca: Rural Life in Aragon under Franco. For many years, the village of Ibieca, located near the border of France and Spain, was a peasant community run by local masters. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco's regime pushed the village into the twentieth century. Mechanized agriculture and large landowners gradually replaced traditional farming methods and small peasant landholdings. Landless workers and many young people left Ibieca to work in the city. The village population declined by fifty percent, and the family unit deteriorated. The farmer who formerly worked the land in an intimate relationship with local ecology was displaced by the farming businessman whose success was bound to the market economy and a centralized government administration.
Harding postulates in her book that "the agrarian programmes of the Francoist state did not directly determine change. Rather, they set the direction and pace of people's choices," related Jeremy MacClancy in the Times Literary Supplement. MacClancy called Remaking Ibieca a "carefully written, sensitive ethnography" that balanced statistical data with personal life histories of Ibieca's villagers. The critic continued: "The book is a valuable contribution to a previously neglected topic in Mediterranean anthropology: how villagers make economic decisions when the State controls the market and how those economic choices transform the nature of their lives."
Harding took a look at the rise of fundamentalist evangelism in The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics. To write this book, she researched the world of fundamentalist Christianity for some fifteen years, particularly the community of Falwell's Thomas Road Baptist Church. Harding believes that the careful use of language has been an important factor in creating the fundamentalist worldview. She points to televangelist Falwell as one of the chief architects of this perspective, and argues that by reinterpreting Bible passages, Falwell transformed fundamentalism as a religious sect that separated itself from the rest of the world into a group that is bent on changing the world. "Harding's book is a fascinating study of fundamentalist language and belief. She does a good job of explaining how born-again fundamentalists look at the world and she does so without being condescending or judgmental," stated William R. Wineke in Wisconsin State Journal.
The Book of Jerry Falwell is "an eloquent and incisive study of religious fundamentalism in the United States," praised Jeremy Stolow in a review for Sociology of Religion. "Harding's text performs at least two that should make it an enduring reference for scholars and teachers." Stolow stated that one of these services was to give an insightful history of fundamentalism's sudden rise as a political and cultural presence in the late twentieth century. Secondly, the book "highlights the many intricacies of fundamentalist discourse itself: the ways it is shaped by public preachers like Falwell, and absorbed and then reproduced by the communities of Bible believers who constellate around them," observed Stolow. "Through a far-reaching analysis of sermons, popular literature, brochures, advertising and fundraising campaigns, and museum exhibits, Harding penetrates behind the surface of what appears to be the inflexible absolutism of … fundamentalist dogmas." Stolow concluded that The Book of Jerry Falwell is "a theoretically rich and highly original work."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, November 21, 2001, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics, p. 36.
Church History, March, 2002, David Harrington Watt, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell, p. 216.
Journal of Church and State, winter, 2003, Barry Hankins, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell, p. 183.
Journal of Religion, January, 2003, Joel Carpenter, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell, p. 124.
Sociology of Religion, spring, 2002, Jeremy Stolow, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell, p. 126.
Times Literary Supplement, June 7, 1985.
Wisconsin State Journal, July 30, 2000, William R. Wineke, review of The Book of Jerry Falwell, p. 3F.