Qualitative Methodology: The Method for a Study of Self-Expression

An Exploration into the FeminineVOICE of Prophetic Leadership

This project falls into the realm of the qualitative, a method of research that employs specific techniques for understanding people in their natural context. Drawn to an interpretive, womanist, critical sensibility, qualitative research is also humanistic and naturalistic in its conceptions of human experience and analysis, all of which are characteristics that fit well into the nature of the work I am proposing. The current sensibility of this research type is one of doubt. Because it doubts that any discourse has a privileged place, because it doubts that any method or theory is a dominate repository of knowledge; qualitative research remains open to an exploration into the experience of others as it allows direct access to their observations. It is into this opening that the technique of qualitative interviewing enters into the dialogue of research methodology.

In the book Discipline and Punish, Foucault (1977) argues that newly formed technologies of surveillance, like the modern interview, do not just accommodate and incorporate the experience of individual subjects, but enter into the construction of individual subjects in their own right. The qualitative interview will effectively expose the ways these women construct an ethic of care that drives social concerns to a moral center; and, allow us to determine whether religious preferences influence the construction of these individual subjects as they are expressed in their own right.

This is the methodical purpose to which we drive, entering into the world of prophetic leadership in order comprehend the subjectivity of women and the cultural context in which they lead, to then better understand the ethic and motivation embodied in their voices. I have access to a particular set of narrative interviews that will enhance the means that further our research end. These narratives will represent the voices of an interfaith sample derived from two resources; the first source is contained in the Oral History Project of the Women in Theological Ministry Collection housed in the Pitts Library of the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, which is composed of 48 stories of women who have composed strong lives through their moral authority. It is a resource that provides raw material for researchers to use in order to better understand the role of women in ministry and theological education.

This study will extract those interviews with women in positions of leadership. In order to round out the interfaith dimension of the sample, a second resource of interviews will be constructed to replicate the method and add to the collection of the Oral History Project (henceforth known as the OHP). These women have been identified by Sandra Thurman, the Director of Emory’s Interfaith Health Program and I as contributions toward the expansion of the collection. Our goal is to develop an holistic sample interviews representing the spiritual descendants of Abraham that reflect a threefold balance of Christian, Islamic and Hebraic women in leadership.

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