Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, xii, 315 pages)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Angie Y. Chung

Committee Members

Karyn Loscocco


Immigration, LGBT Politics, Multiculturalism, Nationalism, Religious Women, South Korea, Women and religion, Women, Sex role

Subject Categories



A lively body of literature has explored the majority Korean public’s rapidly changing attitudes and opinions on immigrants and LGBT persons, drawing on large-scale quantitative data amidst the Korean government’s pro-multicultural policies and programs in the wake of neoliberal global pressure. In contrast to the scholarly endeavor to highlight the role of the government, another line of literature, so-called “the liberal-democracy thesis”, illuminates the important role of civil society actors such as non-government organizations and faith-based organizations to advocate minority rights and nurture a minority-friendly atmosphere. However, there have been few academic attempts to investigate the role of religious organizations and adherents. Little is known about how ordinary religious members, particularly female adherents, respond to multicultural transition, by making sense of increasing minorities, minority rights and responsibilities in social, political, and legal dimensions. Thus, this study extends past research on multiculturalism and minorities by investigating religiously devout women’s discourses when grappling with changing demographics. By focusing on young religious women in Evangelical Protestant and Unification Churches in South Korea, this study provides a clear picture of how religiously devout women challenge, contest, or reinforce the boundaries of ethnic homogeneity and heteronormativity that prevailed in Korea over the last century. Drawing on 60 in-depth interviews and multi-sited field observations in World Vision Church (Evangelical Protestant Church) and Unification Church (Family Federation for World Peace and Unification) in Seoul, South Korea, this dissertation attempts to answer two main research questions through four empirical chapters. First, I inquire how women’s discourses on immigrants and LGBT persons are influenced by the presence or absence of institutional-level discourses within World Vision and Unification churches (Chapter 5 and Chapter 7). Second, I ask what types of discursive strategies evangelical Protestant women produce when enacting the boundary of (un)worthy immigrants and LGBT persons (Chapter 6 and Chapter 8). Most importantly, this study interrogates an important theoretical question that applies across all four chapters: how women’s locations in gender, religiosity, and class simultaneously shape their perceptions of immigrants and LGBT persons. Theoretically, I develop an intersectional approach of three categories: gender, religiosity, and class, as a way to understand Korean women’s participation in the discursive construction of multiculturalism. Combining an intersectional approach with the boundary theories of “in-group identity” and “out-group perception”, this project seeks to enhance our understanding of women’s virtuous subject formation, which in turn provides them with discursive repertoires and narratives that are useful resources in the construction of their worldviews. By applying these theoretical lenses in each chapter, the four empirical chapters demonstrate how the three categories operate in different ways, depending on women’s locations in local churches, heterosexual families, and professional workplaces, while these institutions are also entangled with a Confucian-oriented Korean culture with its legacy of developmental state, neoliberal global economy, and proliferating transnational practices. This dissertation has several contributions to the sociological research. First, my work supports the paradigm of the sociology of gender and religion that religion and women are not incongruent and incompatible and also advances the literature. Integrating the political motherhood literature, my study elevates women’s roles from apolitical homemakers to hidden actors in civil society and nation-building and shows their synergetic identities of being mothers, cosmopolitan citizens, and religious devotees in expanding civil society. Second, my study shows the complex position of women as subjects who exert willingness and agentic power coping with multicultural changes, but also subjects who reiterate the saliency of local cultural forces and constraints such as Confucian-oriented heteronormative Korean culture and ethnic nationalism with its legacy of developmental state and neoliberal economic structure. Finally, in terms of the praxis of intersectionality, my study proposes that religiosity is a pivotal identity category to differentiate Korean women’s identities, perceptions, and political roles in civil society. By adding religiosity as a vital narrative and practice, I claim that religious women synthesizing labyrinthine, contradictory emotions, practices, and expectations of being a mother, a religious adherent, and a cosmopolitan traveler has unique roles in Asian context and consequently bring more inclusive culture for ethnic and sexual diversity in the process of nation-building.

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Sociology Commons