Fake Churches and False Unification: The Anthropology of Conversion in the Divided Koreas

March 30, 2021

Since the 1990s, the sums of faith-based aid to North Korea have been so vast as to stir speculations that Protestant Christians are the ones secretly propping up the North Korean regime.  The irony is that Evangelicals in South Korea and the Korean diaspora remain the most strident proponents of anticommunism and the South’s total conquest of the North.  What is the relationship between Christianity, communism, and capitalism in the divided Koreas?  How do South Korean perceptions of religion in North Korea entwine theologies of mission with ideologies of unification?  In this lecture, Angie Heo will explore the contradictions of economic aid and religious freedom in a unique geopolitical zone where the Cold War never ended.  Drawing inspiration from Sonja Luehrmann’s writings on religion, atheism, and communism, she will further specify how Christianity in the divided Koreas presents a challenge to current anthropological scholarship on conversion and sectarianism.


Angie Heo, Univeristy of Chicago

Angie Heo is Assistant Professor of the Anthropology and Sociology of Religion at the University of Chicago.  After receiving her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley, she taught at Barnard College and held research fellow positions at Emory University and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.  Her first book is The Political Lives of Saints: Christian-Muslim Mediation in Egypt (University of California Press 2018).  She is currently working on her next book on Evangelical Protestants and capitalism in the Korean Peninsula. 


Tuesday March 30, 2021

1:00 - 2:30 PM PST


  • SFU Department of Sociology and Anthropology
  • SFU David Lam Centre