Educating Catholics for a Liberal Society: An ethnographic study of religious transmission

Hanemann, Rachel Whitney (2016) Educating Catholics for a Liberal Society: An ethnographic study of religious transmission. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (Access to this publication is currently restricted. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Current debates in the UK about faith schools often focus on whether they are able to promote liberal values while maintaining the values and doctrine of their religious tradition. These debates, worked out through education policy, legislation and the media, are typically conducted at the level of macro or meso-level generalisations, but are not informed by micro-level studies of how the transmission of religious tradition in relation to liberal values takes place through specific interactions between staff and students. This thesis seeks to contribute to such a knowledge-base through an ethnographic study of interactions between staff and students in relation to processes of religious transmission in a Catholic secondary school in London. Drawing on a Bourdieusian theoretical framework, informed by related work on the transmission of religious memory and the formation of religious emotion, the study examines how staff in this school try to enable students to develop a religious habitus in which Catholicism and liberal values are not experienced as being in tension with each other. The staff project of forming this Catholic habitus in their students is pursued in both conscious and non-conscious ways. Recognising the importance of reconciling Catholicism with wider liberal values, staff pursue a range of strategies with students to manage any tension that arises between them, with varying degrees of success. Conflict between liberal values and aspects of Catholic doctrine and ethical teaching is, in particular, avoided through emphasising the development of a distinctive Catholic habitus through the transformation of students' bodies and emotions through ritual and other forms of devotional practice. Staff seek to nurture such embodied and emotional formation particularly through the management of students' interactions with particular sacred times and spaces, trying to negotiate between enacting their authority over students and their understanding of students as active agents who need to come to their own authentic and freely chosen performance of Catholicism. Students engage with this project of formation in a variety of ways, ranging from committed collaboration to covert or overt forms of resistance. Whilst students' engagement with this staff project can sometimes reflect a shared sympathy for its devotional aims, it can also be motivated by an interest in the greater opportunities that arise through cultivating religious capital. For many students, this project of formation is approached through compliance rather than enthusiasm or hostility, but in ways where 'surface-acting' of devotional performance belies a lack of cultivation of more strongly-felt religious emotion or belief. Through its analysis of these micro-level processes, the thesis contributes to existing research on religious transmission in schools by extending an understanding of how this can take the form of particular kinds of interaction relating to students' embodied and emotional formation. It also generates a typology of staff approaches to managing potential tensions between their religious tradition and liberal values that could be utilised in other studies. It contributes to wider policy debates by problematizing simplistic notions of faith schools as inherently authoritarian sites of religious transmission, hostile to liberal values, by considering how staff can seek to reconcile religious tradition and liberal values through their practice as well as how students retain considerable agency in responding to such processes of religious formation.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Uncontrolled keywords: religious transmission, Catholic, education, liberal society, Bourdieu, habitus formation, embodiment
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Religious Studies
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Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2017 13:00 UTC
Last Modified: 19 Apr 2017 12:18 UTC
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