The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland: sectarianism and identity

Kennedy, Maria Helen (2016). The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland: sectarianism and identity. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis is a sociological study of Quakers in Ireland that investigates the impact that sectarianism has had on identity construction within the Religious Society of Friends. My research highlights the complex identities of individual Friends in respect of culture, national identities and theology – mirrored by the Society’s corporate identity. Jennifer Todd’s work on sectarianism and oppositional identities in Ireland provides part of the theoretical framework for this thesis.
An identity matrix formulated from interview data is used to illustrate how different identities overlap and relate to each other. I argue that the range of ‘hybrid’ or multilayered identities within Irish Quakerism has resulted in tensions which impact on relationships between Friends and on the Society. The thesis discusses how Friends negotiate these ‘hybrid’ identities.
Irish Quakers prioritise ‘relational unity’ and have developed a distinctive approach to complex identity management. I contend that in their external relations ‘Quaker’ represents a meta-identity that is counter-cultural in its non-sectarianism, although this is more problematic within the organisation of Friends. Furthermore, by modelling an alternative, non-sectarian identity, Friends are building capacity for transformation from oppositional to more fluid and inclusive identities in Ireland.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology


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