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Empathy Beyond US Borders
The Challenges of Transnational Civic Engagement

$29.99 (C)

Part of Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics

  • Date Published: September 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108464987

$ 29.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • How do middle-class Americans become aware of distant social problems and act against them? US colleges, congregations, and seminaries increasingly promote immersion travel as a way to bridge global distance, produce empathy, and increase global awareness. But does it? Drawing from a mixed methods study of a progressive, religious immersion travel organization at the US-Mexico border, Empathy Beyond US Borders provides a broad sociological context for the rise of immersion travel as a form of transnational civic engagement. Gary J. Adler, Jr follows alongside immersion travelers as they meet undocumented immigrants, walk desert trails, and witness deportations. His close observations combine with interviews and surveys to evaluate the potential of this civic action, while developing theory about culture, empathy, and progressive religion in transnational civic life. This timely book describes the moralization of travel, the organizational challenges of transnational engagement, and the difficulty of feeling transformed but not knowing how to help.

    • Describes the phenomenon of immersion travel in relation to experiential learning and transnationalism
    • Uses multiple types of engaging data including quotations and vignettes from actual immersion trips
    • Clearly shows the benefits and downsides of transnational civic engagement through immersion travel
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Written beautifully and with heart, yet rigorously analytical, Adler's book uncovers the destabilizing and transformative complexity of human connection across political borders and, in the process, quietly but firmly dismantles the folly of wall-building delusions.' Peter Stamatov, Santander Endowed Chair Carlos III-Juan March Institute for the Social Sciences and New York University Abu Dhabi

    'Adler’s book richly describes and theoretically analyzes the important case of progressive religious-based immersion trips along the US-Mexico border. He provides significant insight into the practice, structure, and transforming potential of these trips, and addresses the thorny issue of whether change occurs once participants return home. It is a must-read for anyone interested in religion and borders.' Kraig Beyerlein, Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society, University of Notre Dame

    'I can’t wait to assign this thoughtful, balanced, beautifully theorized book to my students! Its subtle observations challenge some of our most cherished theories and common sense ideas about a kind of experience that many humanitarian organizations around the world try to produce. Social researchers will savor the book’s clear and direct major contributions to social theory, organizational theory, and the sociology of emotions.' Nina Eliasoph, University of Southern California

    ‘Adler (Pennsylvania State Univ.) has written a compelling book about immersion travel … an accessible and enlightening analysis of a popular form of civic engagement, with much to say about its possibilities and limits … Highly recommended.’ M. M. Franz, Choice

    '… Adler's work is both methodologically innovative and a great example of how empirics and conceptual abstraction can be brought into dialogue … I highly recommend it for the timeliness of its topic and as an example of what excellent cultural sociology can look like today.' Nicolette Manglos-Weber, Social Forces

    '… Empathy Beyond US Borders is an important contribution to those interested in the sociology of emotions and morally inspired collective action. Apart from scholars interested in transnational volunteering, civic engagement, philanthropy, and cosmopolitanism, this book offers non-specialized readers the opportunity to understand the reach of immersion travel, as well as the complexities that this alleged transformative experience bring about when it comes to convert concern into action.' Carlos R. Cordourier-Real, Voluntas

    'Scholars interested in religion, social theory, trasnational politics, and the sociology of culture will find this book immensely valuable.' Chandra Russo, Sociology of Religion

    ‘This book is a model piece of scholarship. It advances a number of important theories across the discipline and draws upon a remarkable breadth of literature. The book’s empirical basis is meticulously considered. Adler’s ethnographic voice is clear and compassionate. Its assessment of immersion travel is nuanced, offering important recommendations for practitioners. Scholars interested in religion, social theory, transnational politics, and the sociology of culture will find this book immensely valuable.’ Chandra Russo, Sociology of Religion

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    Product details

    • Date Published: September 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108464987
    • length: 318 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.47kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. From distance to concern
    Part I. Organizational Roots and Dilemmas:
    2. At the border between education and action
    3. The problems of finding truth through travel
    Part II. Activities, Emotions, and Empathy:
    4. What immersion travelers feel all day
    5. Why it's better to walk than talk
    Part III. Patterns of Experience and Transformation:
    6. Guided unsettledness: how groups safely shape travel
    7. What changes and why?
    8. The possibilities and problems of immersion travel
    Methodological appendix

  • Author

    Gary J. Adler, Jr, Pennsylvania State University
    Gary J. Adler, Jr is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Pennsylvania State University. His research on culture, civic organizations, and religion has been published in numerous journals, including Social Problems, the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, and Social Science and Medicine. He is the editor of Secularism, Catholicism, and the Future of Public Life (2015) and co-editor of American Parishes: Remaking Local Catholicism (forthcoming).

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