Investigating Religious “Identity”
the promise and problem of discourse analytic methods for religious studies inquiries
Keywords:identity, religion, linguistics, research methods, Membership Categorization Analysis, stance analysis
This article describes a fieldwork case study which integrates religious studies with various discourse analytic methods, to examine how contemporary Christian identities are represented in conversation. Based on interviews and focus groups with 46 residents of a small town in rural Canada, this research is primarily concerned with religious talk – in particular, with the “social practice” (Fairclough and Wodak, 1997: 258) of “talking [religious] identity” (Hadden and Lester, 1978). In this article, I will review briefly how “identity” is conceptualized in contemporary discourse analysis studies, before describing both the challenge of selecting appropriate linguistic methods for the investigation of religious identity, and the impact upon my research of adopting particular methods.
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