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An exploration of conflict handling among Quakers

Robson, Susan Margaret (2005) An exploration of conflict handling among Quakers. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

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The Quaker community is committed to conflict resolution; it might be expected that
the community itself is conflict free. This study explores this proposition and presents
a counter narrative: conflict does exist among Quakers, with its roots in the culture of
the organization.

An ethnographic case study was undertaken in a context of observing participation,
where the researcher was also actively responsible inside the organization. The
project included: 39 semi-structured interviews with Key Informants, Grassroots
Quakers and Edge Quakers; a collaborative inquiry workshop with 20 self-selected
participants; recording of reflections over six months with a final workshop.

The study finds a dominant community narrative telling how the Quaker task is to
'mend the world' and live in a'peaceable kingdom'. This is achieved by ignoring
conflict within the organization, defensively following the maxim 'don't ask, don't tell,
don't even think about it'. A distinctive pattern of conflict handling is revealed;
aversion precedes avoidance, relationship is privileged above outcome, and
moderation and restraint are required. Conflict which does surface and persists
focuses on the interpretation of Quaker identity. The culture of aversion from conflict
makes it difficult for Quakers to articulate conflict experience; they lack confidence
and are hesitant. Counter narratives and personal narratives are not made public.
Consequently there are very few collectively articulated stories about Quaker conflict

A constructivist narrative framework acknowledges the power in the internalised
collective narrative. As proud individual nonconformists, Quakers minimise the
coercive power of the collective narrative, which positions them as stultified in
conflict, with their agency neutralized. It is argued that one way of creating radical
change is to encourage the telling of more stories of Quaker conflict, providing new
parts in the play.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: EThOS Persistent ID
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
Schools: School of Human and Health Sciences
Depositing User: Graham Stone
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2009 14:18
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2015 21:50


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