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