Tie That Binds: Modeling Print in early Seventh-day Adventism

PCA representation of topics in SDA periodicals showing three main topic areas


Dr. Jeri E. Wieringa

Research Assistants:

  • Jacob Barrett (2022- )


The Tie that Binds is a multi-layered project that explores the role of print in the development of Seventh-day Adventism as an entry point for unpacking the relationship between communication technologies and community formation. A historical project, this work draws on religious studies and media studies to examine the history of Seventh-day Adventism, a American new religious movement of the nineteenth century, through the lens of technology. The project traces how developments in SDA uses of print shaped the culture of the movement, especially as seen in dynamics around gender. A digital cultural history, the project relies on computational methods to explore large-scale dynamics across seventy years of Seventh-day Adventist publishing efforts, while using the methods of cultural history of contextualize and interpret those findings.

At the core of the project is an edited collection of the periodicals produced by the denomination between 1848 and 1920. The edited collection is based on materials digitized by the Seventh-day Adventist denomination and made available through the denomination’s digital archives. While periodicals represent only a fraction of the types of content regularly published by denomination members, they played a pivotal role in the print network. It was through subscriptions to the periodicals that members stayed in contact with one another, shared news of the successes of their outreach, supported and encouraged members, and coordinated the distribution of other publications.

Surrounding that core is the book project, narrating the cultural history of Seventh-day Adventism in relation to their publishing work. Beginning with William Miller and the publishing efforts of Joshua Himes and ending with the establishment of the White Estate after the death of Ellen White, the book tells the history of the denomination not through developments in theology or through the actions of church leaders, but through the uses and developments in print to create a culture around particular practices of reading and evangelism, of looking for signs and patterns and of disseminating the word. While shaped by major figures such as the Ellen and James White, Hiram Edson, and J. N. Andrews, the publications of the denomination shaped the religious life of adherents by modeling a particular approach to reading (both texts and the world), as a platform for creating an “imagined community” across space and time, and as an accessible method of engagement in the proselytizing work of the denomination.

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Project website coming soon.