The pieces of my dissertation are beginning to float to the surface, piece by piece, released into the world as smaller parts of the whole. At some point this all may become a book, but for now, I have enjoyed the opportunity to share some of the learning from my dissertation research in book chapters, articles, and blog posts, which I’d like to share with you all so that you can see some of what I’ve been up to these days.
The most recent piece that has come to be is an article on The Listening Guide, the particular method of narrative analysis I used to analyze the transcriptions of the interviews I conducted with participants of Emerging Church congregations. I’m particularly excited about this piece because I think it could be a useful tool to many of us in our respective fields of study and work. And although my particular context is theological and, even more specifically, Christian, as a tool and method, The Listening Guide can be used for reflection and be of great value in a variety of contexts.
Previously on Feminism and Religion, I’ve written about the Emerging Church and the qualitative research and feminist analysis I conducted with emerging church congregations – churches that are part of a movement to reimagine and reform church in light of the insights of a new era and the experiences with church and Christianity (both good and bad) of a new generation of people. The Emerging Church, as one participant explained, “is nothing more than a way of expressing that we need new forms of church that relate to the emerging culture.” Unsurprisingly, representing a movement for change, Emerging Church efforts often take place on the margins of mainline institutional Christianity. And as they are not the norm of church, a special attuning to is helpful in order to understand what is going on at the heart of these efforts.
Thus, one of my favorite parts of my dissertation research with the Emerging Church was the feminist method of narrative analysis that I employed in my effort to attune to the motivations and aims of the movement. The Listening Guide is something I have shared with you in a previous post, where I offered a brief summary of the method and listed its various steps. Originally, The Listening Guide, developed by Carol Gilligan et al, was designed for use with individual interview transcripts. My research included both individual and group interviews, so I adapted the steps of the method so that it would work with both. Now, I have an article that gives a fuller description of the method and the details of how I adapted it for group interviews. The piece is published in Perspectivas and is available online in its entirety.
This method of analysis is one that allowed me to ‘listen deeply’ to my data and leave myself open to discovery. I was drawn to the method because I saw it building on Nelle Morton’s model of “depth hearing” – of engaging in listening to one another in a way that commits us to ‘hearing all the way’ and to being transformed by it as a result – which has long been of great influence to my thinking and practice. This kind of hearing enables the speaker to be heard to their own story thereby creating the possibility for new imagining, an imagining that contributes to the mutual empowerment and transformation of both hearer and speaker. Practicing this kind of hearing is meant to evoke “a new speech – a new creation,” something of which I see the church as being in great need.
This leads me to share with you two other pieces I wrote recently that are published with Bearings Blog of the BTS Center (Bangor Theological Seminary). The first piece, Rethinking Church, Communally and Creatively, reflects on why I focus on church polity in my dissertation research and reveals some of the reasons I went into this topic in the first place. The second piece, Re-imaging Communion: Radical Listening and Making the Body Whole, describes and reflects on an instance of deep listening that had a transforming effect on my own church community’s practice of communion.
As you will see from these various pieces, my work revolves around the church, sometimes to my own surprise. But more specifically, my work aims to bring feminist wisdom to bear upon the church’s theology and practice. I’m deeply committed to both; they shape who I am and who I want to be in the world. And so here I share some of my most recent work and welcome your feedback in hopes that both your voice and mine will be expanded and strengthened by our mutual exchange.
Xochitl Alvizo, loves all things feminist, womanist, and mujerista. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters; it makes a difference for good or for ill. She teaches in the area of Women and Religion, and the Philosophy of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality, at California State University, Northridge.