I finished my dissertation, “A Convergent Model of Hope: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture,” last November.
But it is finally rolling out so that it can be shared with others.
I know it’s the case that dissertations aren’t always thought of as super interesting things to read but let’s not underestimate how interesting a dissertation can be to read especially when it references topics such as contextual theology, early Quakers such as Margaret Fell, Jay-Z, Bob Dylan, remix and Freedom Friends Church! I know I am biased, but I think this little stack of papers glued together has the potential to be inspiring for a lot of folks out there.
Here is the abstract:
In the wake of modernity, faith traditions face the challenge of how to adapt within changing cultures, new scientific discoveries, and other pressing realities that bring about crisis. Often the response to revitalization is to eschew tradition altogether or rigidly cling to it. The “convergent model of renewal” proposed here demonstrates how renewal can conserve tradition while being innovative. The model draws on missiology and participatory cultural studies, enabling the construction of a theory that is fully contextual and fosters participation.
In order to construct the model, I draw on the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, missiologist Stephen Bevans and cultural studies scholar Henry Jenkins. MacIntyre argues that traditions are historically extended arguments that are socially embodied within living communities. At their best, they overcome internal and external crises by drawing on the resources already within their tradition. Bevans emphasizes that all theology is contextual, and that changing contexts necessitate changing theology. Bevan’s synthetic model illustrates how practitioners within a context can be in a dialogue with tradition, culture and praxis. Henry Jenkins demonstrates that within participatory culture, practitioners remix original texts in order to create something new, they work to create authentic experiences, they produce what they want to consume, they share their collective intelligence in ways that are decentralized, and in doing so they embody an alternative social community.
The convergent model draws on these three thinkers to offer a way forward for tradition. Tradition is the only grounds for innovation, context is the catalyst for change and participatory culture provides the practices for holding these two things together. Two examples are presented that demonstrate how the model works: early Quakerism and Freedom Friends Church in Salem, Oregon. Both of these groups remix original texts of their tradition with new texts in a way that innovates while maintaining a continuity with the past, as they resist a passive culture of consumerism in order to foster an authentic subjective experience, drawing on many voices an open work of shared power and knowledge is formed, and by doing so they embody an alternative participatory community.
I am still working on making it more widely available and less expensive but for now if you have access to an academic library you can get a hold of free as a .pdf through ProQuest.
I would love to come and do a workshop, retreat or other teaching around the topics covered in my research. Please contact me if that is of interest to you.