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A Call to the Particular: Contributions from Theology and Qualitative Research

  • Aana Marie Vigen
Part of the Black Religion / Womanist Thought / Social Justice book series (BRWT)

Abstract

To know and experience in one’s own bones that one’s worth is accurately seen and fully respected by others amounts to basic sustenance for human living. Akin to air, food, and water that expand the belly and breast, such embodied knowledge replenishes ephemeral storehouses that perpetually ache for meaning, joy, love, and hope. It is, in short, a requirement for human life—as integral as any physical need.

Keywords

Qualitative Research Latina Woman Social Ethic Healthcare Ethic Liberation Theologian 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 4.
    One can glimpse the evolution of the modern hospital in Philippe Ariès, Western Attitudes Toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present, trans. Patricia M. Ranum (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
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    Larry L. Rasmussen makes this point eloquently and cogently in his work. See, e.g., Larry L. Rasmussen, Earth Community Earth Ethics (New York: Orbis, 1996).Google Scholar
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    Ivone Gebara, Out of the Depths: Women’s Experience of Evil and Salvation (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 130. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Gebara, Out of the Depths.)Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Grace Jantzen contends, “Those who have seen themselves and the world about them as embodiment and self-manifestation of God are unlikely to continue to treat it in a vulgar way or feel it utterly alien or devoid of intrinsic significance and worth.” Cited by Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Healing a Broken World: Globalization and God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 113. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Moe-Lobeda, Healing a Broken World.)Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    I am indebted to eco-theologians such as Sallie McFague who point out that there is a danger inherent in this anthropological claim because it has been used to prioritize human life over and against all other life. See, e.g., Salle McFague, The Body of God: An Ecological Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993).Google Scholar
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    See Luther’s explication of Genesis 1:26–27. Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, vol. 1, Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and trans. George V. Schick (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 60. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as LW 1.)Google Scholar
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    See Luther’s exposition of the seventh commandment, “You shall not steal”: [A] person steals not only when he robs a man’s strongbox or his pocket, but also when he takes advantage of his neighbor at the market, in a grocery shop, butcher stall, wine- and beer-cellar, work-shop, and, in short, wherever business is transacted and money is exchanged for goods or labor …. In short, thievery is the most common craft and the largest guild on earth … These men are called gentleman swindlers or big operators. Far from being picklocks and sneak-thieves who loot a cash box, they sit in office chairs and are called great lords and honorable, good citizens, and yet with a great show of legality they rob and steal…. Daily the poor are defrauded. New burdens and high prices are imposed. Everyone misuses the market in his own willful, conceited, arrogant way, as if it were his right and privilege to sell his goods as dearly as he pleases without a word of criticism. Luther, “Large Catechism,” 395–397. A full discussion of Luther’s economic and social ethics is beyond the scope of this chapter. Suffice it to say that Luther’s economic ethics were not only concerned with individual transactions. His ethical vision extended to the social structures of his day—inclusive of agricultural, religious, financial, mercantile, and political institutions. For example, he vigorously denounced the banking and international commerce systems emerging around him. See Carter Lindberg, Beyond Charity: Reformation Initiatives for the Poor (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993); Moe-Lobeda, Healing a Broken World. Google Scholar
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    To call a given anthropology “androcentric” means that it was developed from a male point of view and uses male persons as the implicit or explicit frame of reference for understanding what it means to be human. Kari Elisabeth Børreson explains androcentrism as meaning “that a doctrine is developed from a male point of view: Woman is referred to as man, who is regarded as the exemplary sex; vir (man) and homo (human being) are considered identical.” Kari Elisabeth Børreson, Subordination and Equivalence: The Nature and Role of Women in Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, trans. Charles H. Talbot (Washington, DC: University Press of America, 1981), xvi.Google Scholar
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    Beverly Harrison, Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics, ed. Carol S. Robb (Boston: Beacon, 1985), 17. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Harrison, Making the Connections.)Google Scholar
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    See, e.g., Elizabeth Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse (New York: Crossroad, 1992);Google Scholar
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    Carter Heyward, Touching Our Strength: The Erotic as Power and the Love of God (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1989), 93–94. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Heyward, Touching Our Strength.)Google Scholar
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    Heyward maintains that a key place to see the intersection of knowing and the body is with regard to sexuality. She maintains that sensuality and sexuality are sacred because they are ways in which we know and experience God. To make this claim, Heyward draws upon the groundbreaking work of Audre Lorde to argue that “[t]he erotic is our most fully embodied experience of the love of God. As such, it is the source of our capacity for transcendence, the ‘crossing over’ among ourselves, making connections between ourselves in relation. The erotic is the divine Spirit’s yearning, through our bodyselves, toward mutually empowering relation.” Heyward, Touching Our Strength, 99. See also Carter Heyward, Our Passion for justice: Images of Power, Sexuality, and Liberation (Cleveland, OH: Pilgrim, 1984), 139–141. Human beings know and experience God within erotic power. The erotic can serve as a profound vehicle for human experiences of loving communion with one another and with God.Google Scholar
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    See Mary John Mananzan, ed., Women Resisting Violence: Spirituality for Life (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996).Google Scholar
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    Isabel Carter Heyward, The Redemption of God: A Theology of Mutual Relation (New York: University Press of America, 1982), 1. Heyward draws on the insights of Martin Buber here. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Heyward, Redemption of God.)Google Scholar
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    Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Changing the Subject: Women’s Discourses and Feminist Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1994), 381. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Fulkerson, Changing the Subject.)Google Scholar
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    One demarcation in white feminist theology stands between those influenced more by post-structuralism and critical theories (Catherine Keller, Serene Jones, Rebecca Chopp) and those who gravitate more toward making claims about essence of human identity and formulating norms that they claim have moral weight across differences (Elizabeth Johnson, Catherine LaCugna, Carter Heyward). White Catholic feminist ethicists such as Margaret Farley and Lisa Cahill argue for a kind of foundational sense of imago del while others, such as Fulkerson, immersed in critical and/or poststructural theories contest such a stance. At their respective bests, these perspectives serve as correctives to each other. Serene Jones has made an insightful assessment of this debate. She finds that some feminist theologians are “on a rock” while others choose a “hard place”: For those theologians who build their projects on universal, foundational rocks, their constructive work in the area of Christian doctrine is refreshingly solid, strong, accessible, and steadily visionary … For theologians who stand in the hard place, their work remains restless and, as yet, lacking in constructive solidity, marking a place of healthy instability. Looking behind truths, testing the strength of good, and pulling back edges in search of ever-retreating margins, these texts offer hope in the form of rupturing voices and more particularized graces. For those who stand on universalizing rocks, the challenge of women’s experiences which do not “fit” into the generalized categories of phenomenology, process metaphysics, psychoanalysis, or literary narrative will no doubt continue to make these foundationalists uneasy. Likewise, the pragmatic demand for sturdy visions and faith-filled truths will not doubt continue to keep those who stand in the hard places of cultural anthropology and poststructuralism wanting more substance than their methods seem able to deliver. (Serene Jones, “Women’s Experience Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Feminist, Womanist, and Mujerista Theologies in North America,” in Horizons in Feminist Theology: Identity, Tradition, and Norms, ed. Rebecca Chopp and Sheila Greeve Davaney [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997], 53. [Citation abbreviated hereafter as: Horizons in Feminist Theology.])Google Scholar
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    M. Shawn Copeland, “Critical Theologies for the Liberation of Women,” in The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation, ed. Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1996), 72. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Copeland, “Critical Theologies for the Liberation of Women.”)Google Scholar
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    M. Shawn Copeland, “The New Anthropological Subject at the Heart of the Mystical Body of Christ,” CTSA PROCEEDINGS 53(1998):30. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Copeland, “The New Anthropological Subject.”)Google Scholar
  21. 59.
    Several feminist theologians have called for ethnographic study in theology. See especially Isasi Díaz, En La Lucha (full citation appears in the preface, note 2); Maria Pilar Aquino, “Latina Feminist Theology,” in A Reader in Latina Feminist Theology: Religion and Justice, ed. Maria Pilar Aquino, Daisy L. Machado, and Jeanette Rodriguez (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2002), 133–160;Google Scholar
  22. and Kelly Brown Douglas, The Black Christ (New York: Orbis, 1994).Google Scholar
  23. 60.
    Bent Flyvbjerg argues that the antagonistic debates and relations between natural and social scientists stem from a fundamental misunderstanding about what each contributes to knowledge and from judging one by the other’s standards. See Bent Flyvbjerg, Making Social Science Matter: How Social Inquiry Fails and How It Can Succeed Again (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 62.
    See Robert Yin, Case Study Research: Design and Methods (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1994);Google Scholar
  25. Michael Burawoy et al., Ethnography Unbound: Power and Resistance in the Modern Metropolis (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991);Google Scholar
  26. and Michael Burawoy, “The Extended Case Method,” Sociological Theory 16(March 1988):4–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 63.
    James P. Spradley, The Ethnographic Interview (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1979), 10–11. (Citation abbreviated hereafter as Spradley, The Ethnographic Interview.) From The Ethnographic Interview, 1st edition, by Spradley 1979. Reprinted with permission of Wadsworth, a division of Thomson Learning: www.thomsonrights.com.Google Scholar
  28. 71.
    Loic Wacquant distinguishes Bourdieu’s notion of reflexivity from others in this manner: Bourdieu’s brand of reflexivity, which may be cursorily defined as the inclusion of a theory of intellectual practice as an integral component and necessary condition of a critical theory of society, differs from others in three crucial ways: First, its primary target is not the individual analyst but the social and intellectual unconscious embedded in analytic tools and operations; second, it must be a collective enterprise rather than the burden of the lone academic; and third, it seeks not to assault but to buttress the epistemological security of sociology. Far from trying to undermine objectivity, Bourdieu’s reflexivity aims at increasing the scope and solidity of social scientific knowledge, a goal which puts it at loggerheads with phenomenological, textual, and other “postmodern” forms of reflexivity. (Pierre Bourdieu and Loic J.D. Wacquant, Invitation to Reflexive Sociology [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992], 36–37. Emphasis Wacquant’s.)Google Scholar
  29. 81.
    Comment made in the qualitative methods writing group, personal notes taken December 10, 2003. She later added, “I’m just a simple practitioner, not a grand practitioner. But, listening respectfully has great value for health studies and academia. People will tell you a lot.” Along these lines, she referred me to a helpful article by Ruth Behar that powerfully tells the story of one Latina after having a hysterectomy. See Ruth Behar, “My Mexican Friend Marta Who Lost Her Womb on This Side of the Border,” Journal of Women’s Health 2, no. 1 (1993): 85–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 84.
    I am not alone in having such an encounter with an IRB. See Elizabeth Herdman, “Pearls, Pith, and Provocation: Reflections on ‘Making Somebody Angry,’” Qualitative Health Research 10, no. 5(September 2000):691–702.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 87.
    Some scholarship has emphasized the importance of people telling their stories as part of recovering from illness. For example, see Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing and the Human Condition (San Francisco: Basic Books, 1988).Google Scholar
  32. 90.
    I should credit Clifford Geertz with the term “thick description.” See Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Harper, 1973).Google Scholar

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© Aana Marie Vigen 2006

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