Skip to content
BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access September 3, 2015

Ethnographic Ecclesiology and the Challenges of Scholarly Situatedness

Gitte Buch-Hansen, Kirsten Donskov Felter and Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen
From the journal Open Theology

Abstract

This article reflects on the importance of being aware of one’s own situatedness when carrying out empirical research. The unforeseen outcome of a project in which we studied converting refugees’ encounter with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark provoked these reflections. The fieldwork was carried out in a particular congregation in Copenhagen that has attracted many asylum seekers, primarily of Muslim background. The empirical work revealed that the scholars, as participant observers, experienced the situation in the congregation quite differently than did the refugees. Initially, the scholars did not recognise conflicts and problems related to ethnicity, gender and class among the various groups of refugees. However, interviews based on the refugees’ documentation of their experiences with and within the congregation allowed different perspectives to be articulated. On one hand, perceptual blind spots inspired reflection on the epistemological deficit that characterised the scholarly habitus. On the other, our theological training did enable us to understand the migrant converts’ specific interpretation of the Christian Gospel. The article concludes that it is important to see informants as collaborators with regard to both scholarly reflexivity and the concrete outcome of research in a shared quest for ecclesiological knowledge.



References

Beouku-Betts, Josephine A. “We Got Our Way of Cooking Things: Women, Food, and Preservation of Cultural Identity among the Gullah.” Gender and Society, 9:5 (1995), 535-555. 10.1177/089124395009005003Search in Google Scholar

Beyer, Peter. “Socially Engaged Religion in a Post-Westphalian Global Context: Remodeling the Secular/Religious Distinction.” Sociology of Religion, 73:2 (2012), 109-129. 10.1093/socrel/srs029Search in Google Scholar

Bourdieu, Pierre and Loïc Wacquant. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992. Search in Google Scholar

Brewer, Marilynn B. and Barry E. Collins. Scientific Inquiry and the Social Sciences. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981. Search in Google Scholar

Cappellini, Benedetta and Elizabeth Parsons. “Sharing the Meal: Food Consumption and Family Identity.” In Research in Consumer Behavior, 14, edited by Russell W. Belk, Søren Askegaard, Linda Scott, 109-128. Bingley, UK: Emerald Group Publishing, 2012. Search in Google Scholar

Felter, Kirsten Donskov. “Breaking with Illusio. The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu as a Challenge to Theology.” Studia Theologica. Nordic Journal of Theology, 66:1 (2012), 80-97. 10.1080/0039338X.2012.674974Search in Google Scholar

Fischler, Claude. “Food, Self and Identity.” Social Science Information, 27:2 (1988), 275-92. 10.1177/053901888027002005Search in Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel. “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias.” In Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory, edited by Neil Leach, 330-336. New York: Routledge, 1997. http://www.vizkult.org/propositions/alineinnature/pdfs/Foucault-OfOtherSpaces1967.pdf. Accessed June 22, 2015. Search in Google Scholar

Fulkerson, Mary McClintock. “Foreword.” In Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics, edited by Christian Scharen and Aana Marie Vigen, xi-xvi. London/New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011. Search in Google Scholar

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York: Basic, 1973. Search in Google Scholar

Gordon, Deborah A. “Border Work: Feminist Ethnography and the Dissemination of Literacy.” In Women Writing Culture, edited by Ruth Behar and Deborah A. Gordon, 373-389. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Search in Google Scholar

Jones, Serene. Trauma and Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. Search in Google Scholar

Johnson, Richard and Deborah Chambers and Raghuram Parvati and Estella Tincknell. The Practice of Cultural Studies. London: Sage Publications, 2004. 10.4135/9781446218655Search in Google Scholar

Kleinman, Sheryl and Martha A. Copp. Emotions and Fieldwork. Qualitative Research Methods Vol. 28. Newbury Park, Calif./London: Sage Publications, 1993. 10.4135/9781412984041Search in Google Scholar

Lausten, Martin Schwarz. “The History: The Church from the Reformation to the Present.” In A Brief Guide to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark edited by Rebekka Højmark Svenningsen, 12-21. København, Aros, 2013. Search in Google Scholar

Lévinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority, Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991 (Orig. publ.: Totalité et infini: Essai sur l’extériorité, 1961). Search in Google Scholar

Lévinas, Emmanuel. Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1981 (Orig. publ.: Autrement qu’être ou au-delà de l’essence, 1974). Search in Google Scholar

LeVine, Robert A. “Knowledge and Fallibility in Anthropological Field Research.” In Scientific Inquiry and the Social Sciences edited by Marilynn B. Brewer and Barry E. Collins, 172-193. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1981. Search in Google Scholar

Lüchau, Peter. ”Seks teser om danskernes medlemsskab af folkekirken.” In Fremtidens danske religionsmodel, edited by Hans Ravn Iversen, Lisbet Christoffersen, Niels Kærgård and Margit Warburg, 311-328. København: Anis, 2012. Search in Google Scholar

McClure, John S. Other-wise Preaching: A Postmodern Ethic for Homiletics. St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001. Search in Google Scholar

Pilario, Daniel Franklin. Back to the Rough Grounds of Praxis. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2005. Search in Google Scholar

Rambo, Shelly. Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010. Search in Google Scholar

Sanjek, Roger. “The Secret Life of Fieldnotes.” In Fieldnotes: The Makings of Anthropology, edited by Roger Sanjek, 187-270. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990. Search in Google Scholar

Scharen, Christian and Aana Marie Vigen. Ethnography as Christian Theology and Ethics. London/New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2011. Search in Google Scholar

Schweitzer, Albert. Die Mystik des Apostels Paulus. Tübingen: Mohr, 1981. (Neudruck der 1. Auflage 1930). Search in Google Scholar

Smith, Jonathan Z. Map Is not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1970 (1978). Search in Google Scholar

Smith, Jonathan Z. Drudgery Divine: On the Comparison of Early Christianities and the Religions of Late Antiquity. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1990. Search in Google Scholar

Stewart, Alex. The Ethographer’s Method. Qualitative Research Methods Series 46. California: Sage Publications, 1998. Search in Google Scholar

Svenningsen, Rebekka Højmark (ed.). A Brief Guide to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. København, Aros, 2013. Search in Google Scholar

Svenningsen, Rebekka Højmark. “Foreword.” In A Brief Guide to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark edited by Rebekka Højmark Svenningsen, 7-11. København, Aros, 2013. Search in Google Scholar

Swinton, John and Harriet Mowat. Practical Theology and Qualitative Research. London, SMC Press, 2006. Search in Google Scholar

Trolle, Astrid Krabbe. “Migrantkirker. Fra grænseflade til kerne i den danske religionsmodel.” Religionsvidenskabeligt Tidsskrift 62 (2015), 63-77. Search in Google Scholar

West, Gerald O. (ed.) Reading Other-wise: Socially Engaged Biblical Scholars Reading with their Local Communities. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007. Search in Google Scholar

Received: 2015-4-21
Accepted: 2015-8-14
Published Online: 2015-9-3

©2015 Gitte Buch-Hansen et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

Scroll Up Arrow