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'Experiment with Light' in Britain: the heterotopian nature of a contemporary Quaker spiritual practice

Meads, Helen Claire (2011)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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This thesis is an ethnographic study into 'Experiment with Light', a reflexive spiritual practice within contemporary British Quakerism, based on seventeenth century Quaker writings. This is the first academic study of British Quakers to focus on religious experience. It demonstrates how Experimenters' religious experience and transformation supports them in changing the wider group's behaviour.

I interweave heterotopia, reflexivity, religious experience, religious transformation and examination of internal Quaker conflict handling to argue that the Experiment is a heterotopian process leading Experimenters to find heterotopic places within themselves and that they sit in a heterotopic position vis-à-vis British Quakers generally. I extend Foucault's concept of heterotopia to show how (heterotopian) process interacts with (heterotopic) site to reveal heterotopia's multi-dimensionality and its potential to change its context, thus demonstrating that applying an analytic concept in an empirical study can reveal new aspects of that concept.

I also show how using heterotopia as an analytical lens reveals how power plays out amongst British Quakers and thus how heterotopia is particularly useful for the nuanced sociological analysis of groups generally. This thesis is the first study in the sociology of religion to apply heterotopia to the experience, practice and structure of a religious group.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Dandelion, Pink
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Subjects:BV Practical Theology
BX Christian Denominations
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3076
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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