The place that words come from... : an ethnography of Quaker worship practices and their social enactment
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This thesis addresses the worship practices of contemporary Quakers and their social enactment. It presents an ethnography that attempts to evoke participation in Meeting for Worship at a local site (St Andrews Quaker Meeting) and also adopts a strategic perspective towards Quaker practices as a dispersed community of practice. It deploys two major theoretical frameworks: a revised theory of secularisation developed by Taylor (2007) and Martin (2005); and Cultural Theory developed from Douglas (1996,1998). A short history of Quakers is set out. A context for contemporary Quakers, the ‘spiritual landscape’ (Taylor, 2007), is characterised. Quaker reflexive literature is reviewed. Following the ethnography of a Meeting for Worship, four key domains of practice are further discussed – the body, silence, speech and gatheredness. The Meeting for Worship for Business is described using ethnographic material. Sources of power, decision-making criteria, the construction of the Quaker narrative, and the emergence of renewal initiatives are reviewed. Four central elements of Quaker practice – the Worship ritual, the Testimonies, Business Meetings, and Cosmologies – are plotted within the grid-group model and Cultural Theory. The thesis has twenty-two Figures and five Appendices which contain a Dramatis Personae, a Fieldwork Diary and background information on Quaker practice. The challenge for contemporary Quakers is portrayed as the attempt to create and maintain unity in diversity and this is explicated by analysing Quaker practices in the light of the pressures of secularisation and cross-pressures within the spiritual landscape, in particular the dialectical tension theorised by Taylor (2007) between ‘transcendence’ and ‘immanence’.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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