Negotiation and survival at the juncture of two institutionalized fields
Taylor, Barrett Jay
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Evangelical Christian colleges sit at the intersection of two different and often conflicting institutionalized fields. While their faith commitments demand fidelity to religious principles, their role as academic organizations compels acknowledgment of concepts such as academic freedom. Previous social scientific research explains these colleges as the result of purposeful efforts by individual administrators or ministers. This study instead draws on neo-institutional theory to highlight the ways in which these colleges reflect the dominant, if conflicting, norms of their cultural environments. Further, it utilizes scholarship in higher education finance and the critical theory of Pierre Bourdieu to conceptualize these colleges as reliant on material resources rather than simply concerned with beliefs and ideas. These theories illuminate qualitative data from three case studies. Findings indicate that simple readings of neo-institutional theory can prove reductionist, but that more nuanced approaches coupled with Bourdieu’s work highlight the ways in which cultural practices shape the material resources to which a college has access, even as material resources assume cultural meaning.