Saturday, July 20, 2024

“Grassroots digital activisms” research project July 2024 update

I leave Edinburgh tomorrow. It’s been a wonderful time, of new networks of people and a peaceful setting in which to think and research. With my 7 weeks at IASH ending, I have written up a July 2024 research project update.

“Grassroots digital activisms: learning with the visual grammar of indigenous Christian climate justice organisations” research project

Background: Digital technology is changing the world. Neumayer and Svensson (2014) have researched how individuals and organisations use online platforms to activate for change. They theorise a typology of digital activism but call for fine-grained studies from diverse contexts. There is much to learn from local communities with different epistemologies as they activate for change.

This research seeks a decolonial perspective by centring indigenous Christian organisations working on climate justice. It takes a case study approach, beginning in the world’s largest body of water, the Pacific Ocean, and seeking collaborations with other digital activist grassroots organisations in local, diverse, and indigenous contexts.

The research assumes that grassroots Christian communities are using online social media for activism. Their digital outputs, including visual images, provide insights into climate change, digital activism, and visual grammars. Learning with and from grassroots indigenous digital activism offers fresh responses to the ‘wicked problems’ facing our planet.

Research questions:
• What is the nature of online digital activism in grassroots indigenous Christian organisations?
• What might online digital activism, including its visual grammar, reveal about indigenous ways of knowing and activating?
• What learnings might result for other grassroots local activist organisations?

Approach: The project values collaborative approaches and utilises participatory methods. A case study approach centres local particularities and diverse contexts. Visual grammar methods offer frameworks for analysing the online social media images of grassroots organisations. Offering online conversations to participants in grassroots organisations about their online social media images prioritises local perspectives and creates feedback loops. Testing initial findings with local communities invites mutual learning and facilitates grassroots resourcing.

• Practical benefits in offering guidance for volunteer grassroots organisations seeking to activate online for climate justice
• Methodology benefits in testing collaborative and mutual research protocols for use in various indigenous grassroots contexts
• Theoretical implications in challenging Euro-centric theorisations of climate change, digital activism and visual grammar
• Relational benefits in weaving networks of scholars researching digital activism and public theology in non-Western contexts

Outputs past and planned:
Outputs 2023
• IASH funding bid, with the support of Dr Alex Chow, Centre for World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, to initiate the research

Outputs 2024
• Ethics application to the University of Edinburgh
• GoNeDigiTal24, Digital activism as justice-making academic presentation
• IASH, Visualising climate change activism academic presentation
• Funding proposal submitted seeking support for a colloquium of grassroots digital activist researchers
• British Sociology of Religion Conference 2024, Digital activism as justice-making academic presentation
• Journal article. Discussion of implications of digital activism and visual grammar methods for public theology, applied to the social media presence of two UK climate activist organisations

Outputs 2025 and beyond
• Hybrid colloquium on grassroots digital activism, drawing together research into digital activisms in grassroots contexts with the aim of networking and multi-voiced publication of research (April 2025 tbc)
• An open-access academic publication (interest already from an international academic publisher)
• A visual resource and podcast series with activists in grassroots communities about their learnings.

Principal Investigator: Rev Dr Steve Taylor, AngelWings Ltd

Funding and conversation partnerships: The Grassroots digital activism research project welcomes interest in conversations or collaborations. Current supporters include IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities), CWC (Centre for World Christianity), the University of Edinburgh, and RISC (Researching Indigenous Studies and Christianity).

For more information about the research, in the first instance, contact Rev Dr Steve Taylor on kiwidrsteve at gmail dot com.

Posted by steve at 03:32 AM | Comments (0)

Friday, July 12, 2024

fun day plotting the IASH Digital activism research project

It was good today to spend some time reflecting on the IASH Digital Activism as justice-making project to date.

Over the last 6 weeks in Edinburgh, I have gathered a raft of research notes. I’ve written various research memos and pieces of data analysis. Together these total around 12,000 words.

Over the last 6 weeks, I have also presented 3 academic talks. Each of these have helped to clarify data and flesh out some arguments. But they’ve also meant I’ve skipped around a bit, collecting enough data for an “initial finding” in a presentation, but not enough for an indepth written argument.

In the up-next-soon, I have one full week left in Edinburgh. It would be nice in that week to gather threads and work toward something I could publish.

In the up-next-medium term, I have some grassroots activist organisations who are keen to participate. But they have some project deadlines, so have asked if they can be researched later in the year. Totally understandable.

Then in the up-next-longer-term, I want to develop the research in ways that involve multiple voices, not just mine. To make this concrete, a few weeks ago I submitted a funding bid. This is under peer review and could make possible a multi-voiced gathering. I have also initiated contact with a publisher, who has expressed enthusiasm for the project and my hopes for a multi-voiced project.

So today was spent plotting ways that I might produce different outputs. The IASH time was always about the conceptual space to set up the ethics process and research design. It was never intended to complete the project. At the same time, I don’t want to juggle yet another unfinished project, as I already have several too many of those. Equally, having several projects on the go can help with managing timelines.

So today was about plotting. Can there be something in the short term, that is distinct, yet sets up outputs in the medium and long term? Can I match an argument I’ve verbally developed with an already gathered concrete set of data?

After several coffees, and then some thinking thoughts into (1800) draft words on a page, I can see some ways forward.

Posted by steve at 02:46 AM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 09, 2024

Socrel 2024 “Digital activism as justice-making” conference questions

I was pleased to present a paper on “Digital activism as justice-making” at the British Sociology Association (BSA) Sociology of Religion Annual Conference. The theme for 2024 was Religion, Justice, and Social Action which fitted really well with my IASH Fellowship. Being in Newcastle on Tyne, just down the road from Edinburgh also worked really well, providing an international conference forum without having to travel too far! it was nice not to enter the most jet-lagged conference attendee award.

This paper is the third presentation of work from my IASH Research Fellowship at the University of Edinburgh. My data and methods have grown significantly since I proposed an abstract back in February. That in itself is encouraging, seeing how the project is growing and taking shape.

Participants asked a range of excellent questions. As per my standard conference talk practice of taking handwritten notes and writing them up later, here are the questions I was asked, and comments that were made:

    1. Are indigenous ways of knowing appearing in the data?
    2. How many of these groups (indigenous Christian climate change activist using online platforms for climate change activism) exist?
    3. How to account for the public dimensions of being online? One of the theoretical typologies that I use included the possibility of digital activity that is illegal. Would activism groups post about such activity online?
    4. Is there a possibility that indigenous approaches to climate change might be able to provide different approaches and solutions than we currently experience in Eurocentric approaches?
    5. It is fascinating how social media gives voice to communities and provides ways for researchers to listen and learn with and from them.
    6. (In the cup of tea queue the next day) – Have you had focus group participants offer different responses to your visual grammar readings?
    7. (Also in the cup of tea queue the next day) – The collective, practical, participatory ways of being that I’m noticing in my research of activist groups in the Pacific is also present in working class British activism.

As you can see, within the confines of 10 minutes for questions, some really helpful matters for me to think through. Every question and comment informs my ongoing thinking. It also provides feedback on how what I am communicating is being received across cultures.

It was great afterward to exchange contact details with researchers at Durham University, Manchester University and Hong Kong University, who are also researching climate change activism. It confirms that my research is timely, yet is also unique. A good sweet spot.

Posted by steve at 09:26 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 29, 2024

IASH “Visualizing climate change activism” Work-in-progress questions

It was great to deliver an IASH Work-in-Progress presentation of my “Visualizing climate change activism” research project. I’ve been in IASH Edinburgh for about 3.5 weeks and was surprised and grateful to find my work to date filled out 4,400 words. (The photo of a screen shot by my mentor, Dr Chow, of me explaining the origins of the project, with IASH folk listening.)

I began with a Northern hemisphere theorisation of digital activism by Neumayer and Svensson (2014), which I then brought into dialogue with initial findings from my research of the visual online presence of two different climate activist organisations. By starting with indigenous grassroots climate justice online organisations, I am seeking to listen to different ways of being and acting.

Participants asked a range of excellent questions, some from those in the room, others online through chat. I try to take handwritten notes of the questions I get asked after a presentation. Taking notes gives me time to think about how to respond. It also means I can sit more thoroughly and more thoughtfully with the questions at at later date.

Here are my notes of the 8 questions I was asked:

  1. Does the “visual grammar” of grassroots organisation form a coherent identity? Is there a “brand” the organisation are curating? Are there training and guidelines about what is posted
  2. The images I showed were hopeful and called people to action. Images can also speak of doom. There are doom images in some parts of Christianity, focused on the world burning and as a good thing. Are doom images being used and what theologies might they portray?
  3. Are there climate action images from indigenous groups in historic that could be a resource for the research?
  4. A connection – recall seeing an art piece that uses indigenous ways of making to depict a contemporary climate crisis, that of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So is this another way in which indigenous knowledge in activism is at work?
  5. Your presentation focused on social media images. Does pressing like result in a person thinking they have done their bit, and thus lead to decline in activism?
  6. The research project might have a contradicting set of assumptions. The local is valued, yet the local might not want to share their knowledge. An Indian poet wrote a poem called “ I am not your data.” Participants might want to exert their data sovereignty and not share their knowledge.
  7. Can these activist theologies in my presentation be connected with existing Pacific theologies eg Havea’s coconut theology?
  8. What is the nature of the practice of the image makers? How does their practice develop over time, as they take and upload? Are the image makers individuals or are they part of a collective? How are they being formed by their practice? How are the image makers being influenced by memes that are circulating at that time? How could research explore the practice of image making among indigenous content makers?

As you can see, a range of excellent questions, which are really helpful me as I continue to write, think and research. I have 3 more weeks in Edinburgh! Looking forward to seeing what emerges as I continue in the interdisciplinary and delightful space that IASH is proving to be.

Posted by steve at 03:41 AM

Saturday, June 15, 2024

consenting to digital activism

Whoop! A first signed consent form in a research project is a moment worth celebrating. It takes hours of work to get to this stage of a project.

First there is the funding application, seeking resources to undertake research (thanks IASH Edinburgh). This is mixed with a literature review to develop a research question that builds on what others re thinking. Next there is the ethics application, thinking through the risks and benefits of various approaches to research. For this project, this required a lot of reading in ethical research with social media data and ways not to compromise the safety of children in domains that allow anonymous comments. Then there is initiating contact, connecting with organisations and explaining the research to participants. Hours of work make the first signed consent form a moment worth celebrating.

The digital activism in justice-making is briefly introduced here. I am using a mixed methods approach. This involves seeking permission to undertake a visual grammar analysis of online images on social media, alongside offering conversations (focus groups) about the online images. This side-by-side approach should help understand the visual public theologies being offered by grassroot organisations as they activate for climate justice.

Whoop whoop. After positive interactions this week, a first signed consent form!

Posted by steve at 12:09 AM

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

sea rising labyrinth and the ethics of love

Strolling Portobello Beach in Edinburgh on Sunday with a friend, we spotted a labyrinth on the sand.

With the tide coming in, the shoes came off and the jeans were rolled up. One way to walk the labyrinth is to take a question in with you. I took “why are you here?” It’s a question I’ve been asked a few times in the last week, as a Kiwi new to Edinburgh and a long way from home.

One response to the question is technical. I am in Edinburgh for 7 weeks, as a Visiting Research Fellow at IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities), at the University of Edinburgh. I’m doing work on digital activism as justice-making by Christian organisations, working with Dr Alex Chow, from the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

Another response to the “why are you here?” question is  topical.  As I walked the labyrinth, the tide was coming in. At pace. The path of the labyrinth circles in toward a centre, then back out. My journey out would be through deepening water, as the tide continued to rise.

I might be safe, but I found myself thinking about the futures of others impacted by rising sea levels. This might feel remote on a sunny Sunday in Edinburgh. Yet earlier that week I had read about indigenous families being forced to relocate in Panama. So a second response to the “why are you here?” question is topical. I’m researching climate change and how organisations use online images to activate for change. So that less communities will need to relocate in the future.

At the centre of the Portobello Beach labyrinth I found a heart of love. It was yet another delightful touch by the unknown labyrinth makers. I stood, my feet immersed in water, pondering love.

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus is asked what it means to love our neighbour. He tells the story of a robbery. Perhaps if he was telling it today, he might tell the story of a rising sea. And how easy it is to walk on by. Busy. And how some religions use beliefs to justify walking by. Hoping another person might come along to act. Or that God will somehow provide another place to replace this earthly abode. Yet the Parable of the Good Samaritan ends with an unexpected Samaritan, motivated to act.

So a third response is that I’m here to research those motivated to act with love. I’m researching Christian organisations who use online spaces to call for climate-justice. I’m researching people who understand themselves as stewards with creation, rather than profiteers from creation. I’m researching how they use images to spread a message of love.

Perhaps through my research I might see things that help their actions. Perhaps I might see things that help other organisations to find ways to act. So a third response to the “why are you here?” question involves the ethics of love.

PS – A big thanks to the unnamed labyrinth makers on a Portobello beach, who enabled me to immerse myself in a rising tide and ponder a heart of love.

Posted by steve at 10:19 PM

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

UK research June and July 2024

I’m busy at the moment making plans for a June and July research sojourn in the UK, where I am juggling 3 research projects.

First, I have around 6-7 weeks in Edinburgh, where I am a Visiting Research Fellow at IASH (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities), at the University of Edinburgh. I’m doing work on digital activism as justice-making by Christian organisations, working with Alex Chow, from the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

Second, I will be popping over to Glasgow, thanks to the generosity of Trinity College, where I am doing further work on the Race, Justice and Mission project, with archival research into the complicated nature of Presbyterian mission engagement in Pacific blackbirding.

Third, I will be in Birmingham for 2 weeks, where I am commencing a Birmingham University Cross-training theologians in Psychology Fellowship. This has several intensives, online connections and mentoring to equip with skills to undertake psychologically informed theological research. It is a second round of what Lynne Taylor has been enjoying.

Lynne Taylor is on sabbatical in the second half of the year and originally it was planned that she would join me toward the end of this time. However some family matters have changed the landscape and she’ll be heading over later for a shorter time.

I’m stoked to be awarded these Fellowships and excited about the chance to work internationally across a range of research projects. While I’m not looking forward to being apart from Lynne, I am looking forward to seeing a daughter in Oxford, England.

Posted by steve at 09:16 PM

Friday, May 10, 2024

reflective listening to knitters for change

Currently I’m writing up 45 interviews with makers who have knitted for change. Some knitted scarves to activate for climate change, others knitted angels to yarnbomb local communities or strawberries to support survivors of church-based abuse.

As I prepare to write, I listen back to the interviews. One of the things I hear myself doing in the interviews is active listening. Particularly toward the end of an interview, I might reflect back to knitters some of the connections I am pondering. This allows me to check what I’m hearing and to gain their feedback.

Sometimes what I reflect back gains excited and enthusiastic agreement. Like this:

Judging by the excited response, this connection seemed important.

Next week I will print this connection onto a A4 sheet of paper. I will brainstorm, writing out links to other interviews and wider reading. It might well be that this piece of reflective listening is actually an important theme for the research. If so, then it has emerged from reflective listening. I like the way that conversations with people can shape thinking and help develop ideas.

Posted by steve at 06:20 PM

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

tactile patterns in analysing research data

woollen themes Wool is central to knitting. So I’m using wool to help me as I analyse and write up my Ordinary knitter interviews. Wool helps me focus on the tactile and material dimensions of the research.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve worked through interviews. As I read and reflect, I’m looking for patterns both within the interviews and between the interviews. These patterns become themes. Within each pattern there are elements that explain the pattern. Sometimes these elements blend. Other time these elements clash, and in the tensions important insights emerge.

From a first round of reading, I identified five patterns (themes), each of which have several elements that contribute to the weave of the pattern.

Then I assigned different threads of wool to each pattern. It was partly playful, a distraction from the hard work of coding. It was also a good way of reminding me that the patterns are grounded in practice, a knitter reflecting on the hundreds of stitches that make up a Christmas angel, or the thousands of stitches that make up a Knitted Climate Scarf.

I’m now reading all the interviews for a second time, using the wool colour chart to help me look for ways the five patterns are present. I’m also checking nothing important is being overlooked.

The colours catch my eye as I code. The wool is from projects I’ve personally knitted. So it reminds my of my own interests, my own satisfactions and frustrations as I learnt to knit.

Posted by steve at 02:36 PM

Thursday, April 11, 2024

stashes as research methods in researching making

coding I’m writing!!

As I planned the 2024 year, I set aside April and May to progress analysis and writing on the Ordinary Knitters research project. Since Ordinaryknitters began, I have been privileged to interview 43 people from 4 countries who knitted for a public project, collected over the last few years.

There are knitters who cared for their community by making Christmas angels. Other knitters cared for creation by knitting climate scarves, encouraged peace-stitches through “French knitting” peace loom installations or personalised their place through knitting remembrance poppies. Each person making as a way of connecting their Christian faith in public ways with the wider world.

To understand these experiences of making, I’m using reflexive thematic analysis. Reflexive thematic analysis values three things. First, the intuitions and interests of the researcher. Second, the unfolding nature of analysis. Third, the ways in which the particularity of one experience can illuminate the particularity of another experience.

I see reflexive thematic analysis as a way of making. I’m sifting through a rich stash of wool. My stash is unique, shaped by the active role my interests and networks have played in gathering the wool. I compare balls of wool, believing that fresh and new connections can emerge as different colours and textures (interview quotes and stories) are laid alongside each other. As I make, the unique colours of each ball will remain. In all I do, gathering, comparing, knitting, my craft as a maker will be visible. Yet the whole will be greater than the individual parts.

Practically, I undertake reflexive thematic analysis not with an existing set of themes to look for. Rather, I read “reflexively.” I start with the first interview and read it noting what I think are key words (codes).

I try to cluster these key words (codes) around big ideas (themes). I read further interviews. As I do, I work in “pencil” (reflexively) because the key words (codes) and conversation (themes) shift as I read. The experience of one knitter invites more codes, or a reworking of a theme, to better cluster a range of unique experiences. These reflexive changes require me to reread the earlier interviews. As a result, experiences from a range of interview are informing the experiences of another interviews.

I track the shifts in reflexivity by using mind maps and tables. These make visible my unfolding analysis. The mindmaps and tables allow me to keep track of my decisions and reflect (reflexively) on my assumptions.

This approach, of reflexive thematic analysis – assumes that I as a researcher have an interest and a set of values (why else would I be asking for an interview) which I bring to the interview and the analysis. This approach assumes that naming my interests and the way I make decisions will decrease the chance of imposing my research agenda on those being interviewed. It also assumes that insights emerge over time, particularly as the uniqueness of each interview is brought into conversation with the uniqueness of other interviews.

I love the making of reflexive thematic analysis.

Posted by steve at 10:24 AM

Monday, March 25, 2024

Digital activism as justice-making: Evaluating decolonial public theologies on Christian social media platforms

I’m thrilled to have an academic paper accepted for GoNeDigiTal24. The conference organisors requested a short video introduction to Evaluating decolonial public theologies on Christian social media platforms.

This paper is part of a larger project on Digital Activism, with Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh in June/July 2024. Here is a summary of the IASH project from my application:

This project analyses how Christian organisations deploy social media to advocate for justice. While toxic discourse abounds online, so do impactful moments of digital activism. Digital ethnography is used to analyse what might be distinctive about Christian decolonial digital activism. How might digital acts of public theology create viral justice?

Update: Thrilled to have a second academic paper accepted, this one for the British Sociology Association Sociology of Religion (SocRel) Annual Conference 2024: Religion, Justice, and Social Action. Here’s the abstract for that conference:

Digital activism as justice-making. Evaluating decolonial public theologies on Christian social media platforms

There are widespread examples, both positive and negative, of digital activism among religious communities. Methodologically, digital ethnography provides ways to understand the mundane aspects of everyday digital life (Hine, 2015) and analyse the interplay between online and offline performativity. Theoretically, salon, contentious, law-abiding and Ghandian typologies have been used in evaluating digital activism (Neumayer and Svensson, 2016). However, Oceanic scholars have challenged theoretical categories circulating in the Global North, arguing that indigenous approaches to activism centre identity, well-being, and kinship (Tupou et al., 2023).

This paper presents initial findings from a Visiting Research Fellowship with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, June/July 2024. To better understand the limits and possibilities of religion, justice, and social action, this paper analyses digital activism by selected Christian groups in Oceania. The place of race is foregrounded by analysing groups that are active in ways that express indigenous ways of knowing. The paper will draw on data from interviews with key leaders of digital activist organisations and participant observation of digital activist campaigns. Content analysis of emojis as representations of digital emotionality and interviews with key participants/retweeters/commenters will be used to clarify motivations and analyse what might be distinctive about Christian approaches to digital activism.

The research has the potential to impact decolonial discourse through the study of lived practice and provide insights for organisations working in digital spaces to facilitate online justice-making.

Posted by steve at 11:25 AM

Monday, October 02, 2023

Keeping faith in divine service at AngelWings Ltd

holding Keeping Faith book I recently reviewed Keeping Faith: How Organisations can stay true to the way of Jesus by Stephen Judd, John Swinton and Kara Martin for the Australian Journal of Mission Studies. Wonderful was the response from a grateful editor and the 840-word review will be published in December 2023. (This was a first output from our “rummaging in the research stash” season I chatted about last week).

The phrase “keeping faith” is a fascinating way to understand the research work we do at AngelWings Ltd. Organisations want to keep faith with funders, so they contract us to evaluate change projects and innovations in mission and ministry. Organisations want to keep faith with their founding vision, so we work with them to review programmes and gain stakeholder feedback on future plans.

Every organisation has a unique charism. Marist priest, Gerald Arbuckle in Refounding the Church: Dissent for Leadership talks about the need of every organisation to go back to their roots. While Christian organisations have a shared story in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, every organisation lives that story in unique ways. I connect Arbuckle’s refounding with the gifts and graces of the Spirit. As Romans 12:3-7 reminds us, there is one body and many members, one Spirit giving different gifts. So every organisation needs to work to continually refound itself in relation to their unique gifts.

We at AngelWings Ltd provide outside eyes and grassroots feedback to help organisations in refounding. Sometimes we interview and conduct focus groups and through listening at grassroots, next steps are discerned. Other times we survey or provide demographic data, collating experiences across multiple stakeholders. Or we read recent cutting edge literature and bring each organisation’s particularity into conversation with current best practice.

In every case, we are listening, seeking to understand the unique gifts by which the organisation might “keep faith.” Every project is unique, as we bring a range of research methods to offer bespoke solutions. If your organisations needs some refounding, then do be in touch for a pro-bono conversation, to see if we at AngelWings Ltd might be to service (kiwidrsteve @ gmail dot com).

Posted by steve at 01:39 PM

Thursday, September 28, 2023

rummaging in the research stash

Stash – defined as a store or supply of something, typically one that is kept hidden or secret.

brightly coloured objects

Photo by Chris Hardy on Unsplash

I’m currently enjoying rummaging through my research stash. I’ve had a deadline pressured 14 months, delivering 6 different substantial research projects to various groups in Australia, New Zealand and Scotland. It’s meant days, weeks and months of deadlines, in which a whole range of personal and pro-bono research projects have been paused. It’s also meant the bulk of my research, reading and thinking has been less than visible, as I have served the specific internal needs of these organisations.

I currently have a bit more space and with that space I am enjoying rummaging back through my research stash. There are copious computer files. There are books in piles on the floor. There are audio interviews on the Iphone and Zoom storage. There are scribbled ideas in my personal life journal.

As I rummage, I have identified three types of outputs

  • Short pieces, like book reviews of missiology books I’ve read, along with blog-like pieces
  • Journal articles, that develop the insights gained from the research, while working within the confidentiality frameworks agreed with those among whom I have researched
  • Book project, a longer piece of work, gathering up my interest in craftivism over the last 5 years, conducting more interviews as part of the Ordinary Knitters research project and seeing if there is a potential book project on the craft of mission among what is now a substantial file of work

AngelWings Ltd exists to resource the church and so rummaging through the stash is part of exploring what has been tucked away out of of sight, and what might be made appropriately visible.

It’s also been a lot of fun. Like on Tuesday, opening an evernote file of notes on a book, and realising the 1400 words of notes could, with a few hours work, become a book review for an Australian missiology journal. Which was sent this morning. A book review of Keeping Faith: How Christian organisations can stay true to the way of Jesus – submitted to Australian Journal of Mission Studies.

Now what’s next in the research stash?

Posted by steve at 09:38 AM

Monday, July 24, 2023

Retrieving practical theology from the archives paper proposal

Glad to submit a conference paper proposal for Association of Practical Theology in Oceania (APTO). It’s in Dunedin in 2023 so nice and close to home! The conference theme – migration – gives me the opportunity to offer some research emerging from my Race, justice and mission project, thanks to my upcoming University of Glasgow Library Research Fellowship.

Retrieving practical theology from the archives: a reassessment of race and justice in Oceania migration

In the academic study of lived experience, practical theology often draws on empirical research. However, practical theology’s engagement with lived experience, as presented in archival material, is less common. The Glasgow University Library and University Archives hold a unique repository of pamphlets, sermons, reports and minutes. The archives include accounts of how Scottish missionaries experienced “blackbirding,” a coercive approach to migrant labour in Oceanic history. How might these historical accounts of lived experience help us analyse race and justice in the practices of mission?

This paper considers three methodological approaches by which practical theology might research migration histories in Oceania. First, McDougall (2016) used oral histories retrieved through ethnography to outline a distinctive cosmopolitan openness that shaped migration amongst the Melanesian peoples of the Solomon Islands. Second, Modjeska (2014) used embodied imaginaries and drew the work of historians and anthropologists into a “fictive” narrative that asserted indigenous Melanesian agency. Third, Halapua (2001) wove documentary analysis, interviews and action research in seeking to sing God’s song of solidarity with marginalised Melanesians in Fiji.

These three Oceanic methodologies provide ways first to approach archival history as lived experience and second to reflect on race and justice in the practices of Christian mission.

Posted by steve at 09:21 AM