Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology (MA)

Degree Level





Kirstin Erickson

Committee Member

JoAnn D'Alisera

Second Committee Member

Eric Hoenes del Pinal


Philosophy, religion and theology, Social sciences, Anthropology, Methodism, Mission work


The last few years have seen the emergence of growing anthropological interest in short-term mission work, examining the phenomenon though a variety of denominations and mission locations around the world and analyzing the representations and experiences of both the host communities and mission teams traveling to them. This thesis explores how United Methodist short-term mission participants attempt to embody an ideal "mission self" while doing missionary work and the role that narratives about the experience at home played in this. I examine the ways in which members of a Louisiana based UMC team on a medical mission conceptualized their trip to Mexico in summer 2012, focusing on how they represented themselves in relation to their mission work. While much of their time in the field was devoted to processing patients and handing out medications, a significant amount of time was spent on reflexive discussion of what the mission meant to participants. In the construction of these narratives, participants describe their motivations, often the desire to follow Biblical commands of service and the hope for spiritual renewal, as well as their internal transformation, understanding that their actions would have the greatest impact on themselves and not the people that they aim to help.