The Study of Children in Religions
A Methods Handbook
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Cover, Title Page, Copyright
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Already, when opening this book and reading through the first pages, you, the reader, will realize that you are holding a book of great importance. I warmly welcome the book and its effort to create a firmer foundation for an area of scholarship that has hitherto been relatively neglected. It brings together two research traditions: the study of religion and the study of children and...
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Putting together this volume has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my academic career. It put me in touch with wonderful scholars who have a great passion for bringing childhood studies into the mainstream of American academia. Many scholars offered support for this work, including Robert Orsi, who has been an important conversation partner...
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In much of religious studies scholarship, as in most religious practice, children appear primarily as reflections of adult concerns about the present or as projections of adult concerns for the future. Until recently, the absence of children’s voices in religion—and the widely shared assumptions about childhood that inform this absence—led many scholars to view children as uncritically following the beliefs of their parents. Scholars assumed that adults are the sole...
I. A CHILDIST APPROACH TO THEORY AND HISTORY
1 Agency, Voice, and Maturity in Children’s Religious and Spiritual Development
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When my youngest daughter was about eight years old, at bedtime one night she said to her mother, “At this age, should I believe in God or not? Not that I’m mad at him, I just don’t really believe.” Her mother asked calmly, “What does that mean?” My daughter responded, “Well, I just . . . don’t believe that he exists. I believe in Jesus and Mary and stuff, but not God.” Referring to...
2 Religion and Youth in American Culture
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One night, Maia, a budding environmentalist, and her high school boyfriend climbed over the fence of a housing development in southern California that was being built on a site where desert tortoises lived. The teen saboteurs put Karo syrup and tampons into the gas tanks of bulldozers on the construction site and pulled up survey stakes. Maia felt exhilarated when they left the...
3 Children’s Rights in Research about Religion and Spirituality
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The theologian’s replies raise questions for research about religion and spirituality. How can we explore complexity within children’s and adults’ seemingly simple, transparent religious beliefs? In secular societies, how can we conduct convincing research about spirituality as the “sense of connections between the individual and the surrounding world” (Lundskow 2008: 3) and between...
II. USING ETHNOGRAPHY TO TALK WITH CONTEMPORARY CHILDREN
4 Navigating the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for Child-Directed Qualitative Research
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Above my desk, I have a quotation pinned to the wall, words attributed to the late, great singer Pearl Bailey. Bailey once shared this point of wisdom: “What the world needs now is more love and less paperwork.” Bureaucratic reviews (such as tax returns, tenure applications, grant requests, and institutional reviews of research protocols) generally involve abundant forms to complete...
5 “Maybe the Picture Will Tell You”: Methods for Hearing Children’s Perspectives on Religion
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As I sat with John and Sarah, parents of seven children, in their farmhouse, discussing the stereotypes of conservative Christian families, their eldest daughter, nine-year-old Gwynn, sat down beside me. She listened quietly until I asked her father what key principles of Christianity he tried to teach his children, both through his missionary work and at home. He replied...
6 Boundary and Identity Work among Hare Krishna Children
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Religious culture is vital to the success of new religious movements, given their oppositional stance toward the larger society (Rochford 2007a; Stark 1996). Without a supportive religious culture, alternative religions lack the foundation for sustaining a vibrant community of the faithful. As the noted sociologist Ann Swindler (1986) suggests, a stable culture allows belief and everyday...
7 Playing with Fire (and Water, Earth, and Air): Ritual Fluency and Improvisation among Contemporary Pagan Children
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Despite children’s omission from a significant portion of the anthropological record, it is often the case that ethnographic methods can provide access to information by and about children that might be otherwise overlooked or inaccessible. Anthropologist Lawrence Hirschfield’s provocatively titled article, “Why Don’t Anthropologists Like Children?” contends, “Mainstream anthropology...
8 “La Virgen, She Watches over Us”: What Cholos and Cholas Can Teach Us about Researching and Writing about Religion
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We sat under some mesquite trees as he caressed the black and white tattoo of the Virgin of Guadalupe etched on his right forearm. A crochet rosary in green and red hung around his neck, next to the gold medallion of the Virgin of Guadalupe that his abuelita, his grandmother, gave him when he was a little boy. Mark, a member of the South Phoenix gang Wetback Power...
III. STUDYING CHILDREN IN SCHOOLS
9 Going through the Motions of Ritual: Exploring the “as if ” Quality of Religious Sociality in Faith-Based Schools
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It was lunchtime in the teachers’ room of a Danish Jewish day school on the last day before Passover recess. At the door, two fourth-grade girls asked politely for their Judaics teacher. “Is it all right if we go home too? The other class has finished and gone home.” The students looked hopefully at their teacher, who answered, “No, we’re going to stay. We still have the afikoman, the blessing...
10 Catholic Children’s Experiences of Scripture and the Sacrament of Reconciliation through Catechesis of the Good Shepherd
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Joining a growing number of childhood studies scholars who advocate child-centered research, I was interested in exploring how Catholic children encounter and respond to scripture and its impact on their relationship with God. I decided to focus on a particular faith formation program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) because it views its programs and its theological...
11 Religion and Youth Identity in Postwar Bosnia Herzegovina
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Vice-president Joseph Biden quoted the poem above on May 19,
2009, as he stood before the Bosnian Parliament and delivered a speech that
was generally a well received by the Bosnian press.The words of Hajat Avdović,
who left Sarajevo when he was a child and moved to America with his family,
IV. USING ADULT-GENERATED MATERIAL ABOUT CHILDREN: SOURCES AND METHODS FOR ACCESSING CHILDREN’S VOICES FROM THE PAST AND TODAY
12 The Battle for the Toy Box: Marketing and Play in the Development of Children’s Religious Identities
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“Will you join ‘The Battle for the Toy Box’?” asks the poster in large letters across the top. The seriousness of this battle is shown through the image of muscular Samson and Goliath action figures locked in combat and the accompanying text: “one2believe, a faith based toy company, has been given an opportunity to spread the word of God to children throughout America...
13 “God made this fire for our comfort”: Puritan Children’s Literature in Context
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The seventeenth-century English world witnessed a proliferation of literature designed for children. Puritans and other dissenters from the Church of England after the 1662 Act of Uniformity wrote much of this literature, from which emerged a new genre—a child’s martyrology—that collected accounts of children dying with admirable piety. Historians have used these books to...
14 Childhood in the Land of Hope: Black Children and Religion in Chicago, 1920-1945
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The fears about the religious and moral lives of children expressed in the quotation above were not exclusive to Black Chicago; rather, these concerns were common among adults of many races, religions, and regions in the twentieth-century United States. In the case of Black Chicago, adult fears reflected a gap between adult and child experiences of urban life. The generation of children...
15 The Baptism of a Cheyenne Girl
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This chapter approaches the rite of Christian baptism through the eyes of a Cheyenne child.1 The eight-year-old girl was baptized into the Episcopal Church in a gold mining town in Colorado in 1866. Baptism is intended as a signal event in the life of an individual, as well as for his or her family and church community. This baptism was all those things, but its meaning also...
16 Examining Agency, Discourses of Destiny, and Creative Power in the Biography of a Tibetan Child Tertön
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Ascertaining a child’s perspective and experience of religious tradition and practice can be a difficult feat, made all the more complex by the tendency for adults and scholars to reinterpret, overlook, or even omit children’s explanations of their experiences in depictions of religion. While recent scholarship (particularly by the scholars included in this volume) has introduced the child’s...
17 Memory Work and Trauma in Research on Children
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...Max was welcomed into the man’s family, which consisted of his very maternal wife and two other foster children as the couple could not have children of their own. As Max adapted to village life in Friesland, he learned the language, excelled in school, and loved his foster parents as they did him. He knew he was different—a dark-haired boy among blondes—and he knew his name was...
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About the Contributors
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Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2011