chittock_-whole_thesis.pdf (698.18 kB)
Inter-Religious interaction in urban Australia: the influence of religious-identity on perceptions of 'the Other'
thesisposted on 2023-05-26, 03:57 authored by Chittock, EM
This thesis explores perceptions of the religious 'Other' using symbolic interactionism as a theoretical framework in the sociology of religion, and a qualitative research approach of participant observations of eight worship gatherings: two Jewish, four Christian, and two Islamic; thirty-six in-depth semistructured interviews of affiliates from each religion; and textual analysis of political and mass media information. The thesis explores and provides insight into two areas of religious-related expression. The first is the nature of religious self-identity from affiliates of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic worship gatherings and secondly, from that basis, affiliates' perceptions of the religious 'Other' that arise in a context of religious diversity. This thesis finds that that religious identity is more complex than having a fixed and single affiliation. Pluralists exist who are fluid in their identity, affiliations, and practices. Some fundamentalists tolerate and even appreciate difference. Interfaith interactions are often conducted in a quiet and informal way between individuals and small groups, rather than in large and spectacular fashion. Those who encounter mystical spiritual types of experiences are also 'Other' because they, too, 'think and know differently'. This different way of knowing complements normally-accepted knowledge sources. Perceptions of 'the Other', then, range from outright rejection and antagonism by those firmly entrenched in their own beliefs; to ambivalence; and to respect and appreciation of difference for the opportunities opened for learning, expanding one's knowledge and perspective, and for creating an inclusive, shared, and diverse social context. The thesis finds that these perceptions of the religious 'Other' relate to perceptions of change, and are based on interpretations of 'right living' as contrasted with interpretations of 'wrong living'. As people encounter difference, which disturbs and threatens to undermine their own right ways, they act to remedy that disturbance. Social change has implications for religious self-identity and intentions of right living.
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