MA preparations – new comments Entry 13: 6.8.2010

It has now been twice that I’ve lost this document. Certainly most of it is on my blog, thanks God, but it is still annoying not being able to rely on one’s usb stick. This has now been resolved, a new hard disk bought and new entries will come, after time spent at home looking after ‘physical matters’, like tidying and cleaning out my desk, office and 2 garages.

For over two weeks now, I’ve been meaning to start my last assignment in order to finish the 2nd semester and prepare the pre-thesis. I will start today with the project by briefly assessing the suggestions received by some professors. This should help me to prepare the last assessment and continue from there. Esther, my dear companion and spouse has helped me a great deal through her experience with the practicalities in preparing a master thesis and getting clearer about the ideas. I also intend to use as much as useful the suggestions made by Bui in her book on how to write a Master’s Thesis (Bui, 2009).

For Professor Portante’s assignment, I looked at a sample from an official Bahá’í source (Ridvan message 2010) and looked at the concept of ‘developing a culture’. The tools used were the seven building tasks and the discourse analysis question to which each gives rise. (Gee, 2005, p. 11).

Professor Portante suggested, that for a text analysis, I should look at Fairclough (2003, pp. 121-155 part III).

“To look at the process of construction of social and political reality, you basically need to look at how the texts are used, conveyed in contexts of everyday religious and related practices, at what people do, how they do it and what worldview is enacted. Concerning your research question (see chapter 5), you could have a look at how cultural diversity and differences in worldviews between community members and between members and ‘outsiders’ are viewed, treated and enacted in a specific meaningful context and how power relations are constructed. Micro-ethnography could allow you to make visible the ideologies in action. But the way you proceed in your argumentation towards your research question makes you rather look at top-down processes (from ideology to action). What about the bottom-up processes (how ideology changes/varies through social interaction)?” (email 2.8.2010).

I then replied with further comments:

4. Would it be worthwhile to pursue the following research question: how does learning & development take place in the Bahá’í community? Part of the official discourse says that while overall principles and teachings are given in order to change social reality, the practical steps of doing this are very much part of learning processes within the community.

and received this reply:

I think that your question in point 4 is a good starting point for a bottom-up research approach, focus being on investigating social practice through events, looking at how local (micro-level) processes are influenced and influence macro-level processes (email 2.8.2010).

Another interesting comment on chapter 5. Conclusions and further research questions, is included here.

Concerning your research question (see chapter 5), you could have a look at how cultural diversity and differences in worldviews between community members and between members and ‘outsiders’ are viewed, treated and enacted in a specific meaningful context and how power relations are constructed. Micro-ethnography could allow you to make visible the ideologies in action. But the way you proceed in your argumentation towards your research question makes you rather look at top-down processes (from ideology to action). What about the bottom-up processes (how ideology changes/varies through social interaction)?

Here, I hesitate to make a clear cut and compare worldviews between Bahá’ís and ‘outsiders’. This may create a false dichotomy, although statistics are kept on membership. The latest Ridvan 2010 message however indicates a slight shift in that it seems more important that people join Bahá’í ideas and act rather than calling themselves Bahá’í but without action.

More important is that every soul feel welcome to join the community in contributing to the betterment of society, commencing a path of service to humanity on which, at the outset or further along, formal enrolment can occur (Universal House of Justice, 2010).

It may be interested to show whether or not in the Bahá’í community ‘power relations’ are constructed. My guess is that they are not intentionally constructed. This topic would lead to show in the Bahá’í community where power resides.

These comments have enriched me, especially the notion of top-down and bottom-up processes in the Bahá’í Community. I’m also glad to get a confirmation that some topics seem worthwhile to be researched.

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