Date of Award

Summer 8-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Emanuela Guano

Second Advisor

Jennifer Patico

Third Advisor

Faidra Papavasiliou


The Halloween ritual, trick-or-treat, has compelled suburban residents in Atlanta, Georgia to parade throughout the shared public spaces of their communities’ streets for nearly a century. In recent years, however, privatized children’s rituals beyond the realm of the neighborhood seemingly compete for trick-or-treat’s participants: trunk-or-treats in church parking lots now rise in popularity. I parse the impetuses behind the construction of these innovative ritual spaces using in-depth interviews and participant observations alongside the Christian churches who host them and the parents and guardians who participate in them. Cursorily appearing solely as privatized defangings of otherwise venomous and pagan-aligned public rites, trunk-or-treats embody social action in other ways: by actualizing and expanding faith communities’ networks of social capital, they not only afford churches the means to surmount various challenges they face in the New South, but also provide safe and attractive options for security-conscious parents and guardians in contemporary suburban Atlanta.