Nancy T. Ammerman & Roman R. Williams
In the context of significant religious change, sociologists have been re-thinking both theory and method in these early years of the twenty- first century. As our empirical gaze has expanded from the North Atlantic to the globe, our very concepts of belief and practice and organization have been challenged. Secularization has ceased to be the primary theoretical lens through which we understand religion and society, and a wider range of “religion and…” explorations have emerged. More critically, “lived religion” has joined institutionalized religion as an object of study and as a necessary arena within which new concepts may be developed (McGuire 2008). If “religion” is no longer best understood as a common set of beliefs and institutions in which people participate in neatly-bounded ways, then finding religion requires asking different kinds of questions in different ways. This article begins by suggesting that a narrative frame may be especially useful in understanding lived religion and continues by offering a set of three complementary methods of data gathering that are especially suited to exploring religion in its everyday manifestations. Drawing on our own recent work (Ammerman forthcoming 2013; Williams 2010a), we argue that catching multiple religious narratives in diverse social settings requires fishing with multiple nets.
Lived Religion in Everyday Stories
Across a number of disciplines, in the last three decades, we have seen a “narrative turn;” but what that means varies enormously. Within sociology, it has been most visible in the study of social movements, where theorists have discovered the power of stories as tools of mobilization (Anderson and Foley 1998; Davis 2002; Peterson 1996; Polletta 2006; Tilly 2002), explaining how leaders do their work and why participants become involved (Ganz 2009). More broadly, however, sociologists (like psychologists) have increasingly realized that human beings give order to their world through stories.1 We do not think primarily in concepts or causal chains, but in stories that carry those ideas and implied causes within their narrative structure. As Margaret Somers declares, “[A]ll of us come to be who we are (however ephemeral, multiple, and changing) by being located or locating ourselves (usually unconsciously) in social narratives” (1994: 606).
A few sociologists have also noted the importance of narratives in the understanding of religion (Roof 1993), pointing to conversion as a particular kind of narrative genre (Manglos 2010), along with healing stories (Singleton 2001), and testimony (Nelson 2005). Smilde (2003), for example, carefully analyzes how pentecostal men tell their conversion stories, noting the way those stories construct an understanding of divine authority that has implications for personal identity and action. Davidman and Greil (2007) understand the nature of deconversion through the notion of an “exit narrative” that must be composed when one wishes to leave an Orthodox Jewish community. Still others have talked about narratives as constitutive of congregational identity (Ammerman 1997; Collins 2004; Hopewell 1987). Whether personal or collective, religious stories are increasingly recognized as important sites for analysis. We are recognizing that for most people religion is more about living a life than about establishing a tightly argued philosophical system. People rarely tell stories about God intervening in the world if they do not believe that God exists, but what is known about divine character and divine interaction with humanity is carried by stories.
Stories are not, of course, merely personal. They exist at the intersection of personal and public. Social institutions and categories provide recognized “accounts” one can give of one’s behavior, accounts that identify where one belongs, what one is doing and why.2 People develop life stories that are guiding images of the self, but are intertwined with public shared stories that shape collective action. Those institutional accounts exist in conversation with our own internal autobiography—a story that holds the many threads of an individual life plot together in some sort of overarching whole. As Smilde (2003: 320) notes, “The act of narrating consists precisely of taking canonical storylines and accommodating them to particular circumstances and actors.” Thinking about religious identity, religious action, and even religious institutions in narrative terms is a theoretical direction worth taking.3
Some narratives become elaborate public myths, such as the founding stories of a religious tradition, and others function as “metanarratives” that implicitly shape the way we think about history and the future (Smith 2003). But the more modest stories of a single life or even of a single episode contain within themselves elements of these larger narrative frames. Rather than attempting to generalize about “religion” based only on the canonical storylines, an emphasis on lived religion pushes sociologists to begin with everyday stories. What can we learn about a religious tradition from the way its practitioners narrate their lives? What can we learn about beliefs by listening to accounts that may or may not include divine actors? And what can we learn by probing for stories about times of unsettling and change? As both Bruner (1993) and Swidler (1986) argue, the most fertile location for observing the construction of new narratives is at the points where habit has been unsettled. The ordinary and habitual, Bruner notes, do not provoke us to ask why; but when something does provoke us to ask why, we will likely get a story. But even in the ordinary and habitual, the structures of everyday life can be reconstructed through narratives. Bruner notes that as researchers seek to understand selves “in practice;’ following people around to ask them what they are doing and why is obviously impractical, but we can “do the inquiry retrospectively, through autobiography…an account of what one thinks one did in what settings in what ways for what felt reasons. It will inevitably be a narrative” (Bruner 1993: 119).
While there has been a great deal of writing about the importance of understanding identity and social life as constituted by narratives, methods and modes of analysis for such work vary widely. Everyone seems to agree that narratives are essentially ordered by time, sequential in their structure; but even that assumption depends on the larger understanding of time that is at work in a given culture (linear v. circular, for instance). For methodological purposes, it seems to us that the beginning point is simply to invite and listen for stories—in whatever form they occur among the population being studied—and then to interpret those stories with an eye toward their genre and presumed audience (Maynes, Pierce and Laslett 2008).
For both methodological and analytical purposes, we advocate attention to the commonsense elements of story-telling—looking for characters and their relationships, settings and props, action and the causal implications of how that action is sequenced, as well as the emotional and moral content that is being conveyed. These narrative elements have the virtue of allowing analysis across many different traditions and contexts. Questions of characters and relationships, actors (divine and otherwise) and action can be compared, looking for how religion works across settings. Narratives contain within themselves, then, attributions of causation, implications about what has come before and what ought to come after, about the relevant characters and their proper relation to each other, as well as pointing to the bundle of practices that constitute possible “strategies of action” (Swidler 1986). Understanding religion in this way calls for attention to religious and spiritual characters and their relationships, identifying the religious and spiritual settings and materials through which stories take place, and listening for plots that have religious means and ends.
Methods for Studying Religious Narratives
Having determined that the data to be sought will come in the form of stories, researchers are forced to rethink both the range of methods to be deployed and the manner in which our usual methods are pursued. We will introduce below both visual and oral modes of story-telling that go beyond the usual range of tools researchers employ, but we begin with one of the most common tools – the interview. Often, how- ever, interviews are quite unlike normal conversations and not conducive to story-telling. Like many other social science tools, interviews are typically shaped by the researcher’s determination of the relevant lines of inquiry and the academy’s definitions of the relevant categories of response. Eliot Mishler (1986) has been among the most vocal critics of the way the standardized interview frames the subject’s knowledge in pre-categorized boxes, preventing us from discovering new patterns in the social world. Ironically, even some sociologists of religion who have talked about “spiritual narratives” (Black 1999) have arrived at those “narratives” through standardized items and check-box self-assessments. If we are to have stories to analyze, the way we conduct interviews must go beyond questions that presume an existing range of responses and questions that ask for conceptual and categorical answers.
Developing the requisite narrative method need not be either mysterious or utterly free form. Some narrative researchers err on the side of claiming that there can be no method—only artful improvisation—and/or little generalizable knowledge in this work (Frank 2010; Riessman 1993). Others offer overly-detailed instructions for how to think about, code, and analyze all narrative texts (Franzosi 2004). Our suggestions lie somewhere between those two poles. If we want to have stories to analyze, we have to ask for them. We suggest asking both for comprehensive “life history” stories and smaller event and episode- focused narratives. In our own work, we begin our initial interview with an invitation to
tell me the story of your life—not everything, of course, but think about the major “chapters;” and for each, tell me about the important things that were happening then, where you were living, what you were doing, who was important to you in that chapter of your life. And if you have been involved in religious groups and activities, include those, as well. But mostly I just want you to tell me about who you are.
As many observers have noted, the telling of one’s life story in this way is not random. It is tailored to the perceived audience (the interviewer and whatever culture and institutions that person is perceived to represent), but it is also a moment in which the story-teller is likely to see and organize the events of a life in a new way (Atkinson 1998; Linde 1993). The story that emerges is co-created in the socially-contingent event of an interview (Maynes, Pierce and Laslett 2008; Mishler 1986).
Our participants were clearly alerted to our interest in the subjects of religion and spirituality, and that influenced their selection of events for inclusion in their life story. But they were not utterly constrained by our interests. People for whom these were relatively alien or antagonistic domains often fumbled, experimented, and resisted, highlighting the degree to which they were altering the story for our ears. Others told a polished religious tale that betrayed a practiced recitation in religious communities where testimony is common. This opening question, in other words, is an initial opportunity to approach the narrative territory, with interviewers suggesting events and kinds of experiences to talk about, but participants beginning the process of claiming, rejecting, or reframing those suggestions on their own terms. Beginning, in other words, to exercise agency in the telling of their stories.
Our narrative interview method is not simply a life history method, however. Our interviews were punctuated throughout by invitations to “tell me about a time when….” Rather than asking “why do you think bad things happen to good people,” we asked people to tell us about a time when something bad happened to them and how they got through it. Rather than asking them how much their faith influences their lives, we asked them to tell us about a time when they made an important decision. Rather than asking about hypothetical ethical or moral issues, we asked them to talk about the things they see and hear every day that strike them as disturbing and wrong. By consistently framing questions in ways that asked about actions and events and decisions, people fell easily into telling stories rather than providing checklist answers. Interviewers can assist the process by following the interactional cues of story-telling in the natural environment (expressing emotion at appropriate moments, for instance), while also violating those rules by asking the probing and clarifying questions that polite listeners might not. But even detailed probes can demonstrate appreciative listening that allows trust to deepen as the interview progresses.
Establishing trust is always an important issue in interviewing, but especially so when we hope to get past cultural assumptions about “proper” religion. Writing about illness narratives, Arthur Bochner suggests that the act of telling a story is an agentic and political act at the intersection of personal and cultural. So long as the hearer is a stranger, only the hegemonic cultural scripts may be deployed, but when the listener becomes an intimate, it is possible for the story-teller to do more radical narrative work. “Inevitably, the ill person must negotiate the spaces between the domination of cultural scripts of bodily dysfunction out of which one’s meanings are constructed and defined, and the situated understanding of one’s experience that seeks a unique and personal meaning for suffering” (2001: 147). Similarly, in many cases there are hegemonic cultural scripts for how one speaks of religion, and research methods must allow for the development of sufficient intimacy to enable other narratives to emerge. That intimacy and trust can be enhanced by the manner in which interviews take place, but it can also be enhanced when the initial interview is not the last interaction (Merrill and West 2009).
Eliciting Visual Narratives
Subsequent interactions may be of a variety of sorts, but a particularly fruitful. supplement to an initial interview can be the use of visual methods to explore a wider range of stories, emotions, and places. As Vassenden and Andersson (2010) lament in a recent issue of Visual Studies, however, few researchers make use of the visual as a means of data collection, analysis, or explanation in their work, beyond the occasional photograph inserted as an illustration of sociological concepts (Harper 1988). We have ample evidence that religion is itself is visual and material, and our methods should reflect that fact. Houses of worship (of all kinds) are part of everyone’s landscape (Vergara 2005) and the materiality of everyday religious faith and practice is evident in everything from religious clothing to garden statues (McDannell 1995). It is curious, then, that visual methods are not more prevalent in the sociology of religion and that the literature in the field does not approach the range of methodological possibilities currently available.4
There are some recent exceptions to that absence, however. Jon Miller’s work with the International Mission Photography Archive demonstrates the utility of historical images for studying social change over time (Miller 2007).5 Donald Miller and Tetsunao Yamamoris (2007) work on global Pentecostalism is given added texture, context, and credibility by an accompanying DVD featuring short sequences of worship, social ministries, and individual practitioners in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Miller’s current research relies on videotaped interviews with survivors of the Rwandan genocide as a means of preserving “the depth of emotional expression that is not present in written transcripts and is often masked in audio recordings” (Miller 2010). Through neighborhood photographic surveys and spatial semiotic analysis, Timothy Shortell and Jerome Krase (2010) explore the ways that “social space is organized and the signs of collective identity.” These visual methods add new depth to their study of Muslim immigration in global cities, including New York City, Paris, London, Rome, Xi’an (China), and Cape Town. In her project, “Digital Storytelling and Religious Formation,” Lynn Schofield Clark and her co-investigators explore the ways in which collective “digital storytelling [(e.g., a youth group making a video)] serves as a resource for…collective religious identity development, a process that ultimately may change a group’s self-perception and its relationships with its key constituents” (Clark and Dierberg Forthcoming 2012). A similar concern is found in Janet Jacobs’s work on visual culture and religious memory: through a visual analysis of gendered and religious motifs found in German concentration camp memorials, she exposes the ways art and memorial structures of these camps construct memories of the things it presumes to represent (Jacobs 2010). And in trying to communicate data about global religious demography, Brian Grim has creatively used visual representations (Grim 2010).
Our work on religion and spirituality in the everyday lives of Americans (Ammerman forthcoming 2013) and international students from Asia (Williams 2010a) utilized a technique known as photo elicitation interviewing (PEI). It is “based on the simple idea of inserting a photograph into a research interview” (Harper 2002:13). These photographs maybe made by the researcher (Vassenden and Andersson 2010), participant (Clark-Ibanez 2004, 2007), or a third party (e.g., a professional photographer or found images). In our work, the photos were participant-generated (also known as “auto-driven;” see Clark 1999; Heisley and Levy 1991). At the conclusion of initial interviews, participants in each study were invited to think about the places, objects, people, and events that constitute an important part of their everyday lives. After an informal description of the procedure, participants were given the following written instructions and a 27-exposure disposable camera.6
Think about the places that are most important to you. They may be special because of what you do there, how you feel there, what you experience or remember there, or who you are with or think of when you are in that place. This might be your kitchen table, a favorite park or forest, a memorial or statue, your back porch, your church or synagogue, your desk or easy chair, the golf course where you play, almost anywhere. Often places are important because of the people in them, so feel free to include people in your pictures.
Participants were assured that the photos did not need to be profes- sional quality; we were simply interested in several thoughtful snap- shots from at least five or six different locations. After 2-4 weeks, researchers retrieved the disposable camera, prepared print and digital images, and scheduled a follow-up interview.
At the time of the photo interview, participants were given the opportunity to shuffle through their pictures and were encouraged to organize the photos in a way that made sense to them (topically, chron – ologically, geographically, relationally, etc.). It also proved useful to invite interviewees to arrange the photos on the kitchen table, coffee table, or desk where the interview was conducted. With these prepara- tions complete, interviewees were prompted to begin with the photo (or combination of photos) of their choice. They were invited to describe what happens there and indicate the significance of the peo- ple, places, objects, and events they photographed. Participants’ stories were encouraged with probes that guided interviews away from gener- alizations toward specific, narrative accounts, as well as to themes rel- evant to our research agendas. After the final photograph was discussed, interviewers invited participants to talk about what photographs they would have taken, but for whatever reason did not (e.g., they forgot, it was too intimate or personal, it was inconvenient, or it was logistically impossible to photograph). Upon conclusion of the interview, each participant was offered a copy of the prints as a small token of grati- tude. Researchers retained electronic copies of the photos for analysis alongside the transcripts generated from the interview itself.
Taking the visual turn introduces new, valuable, and unexpected dimensions to research on religion. PEis can transform the research process and introduce new conceptual categories, pushing both par- ticipants and investigators beyond their taken-for-granted boundaries. The seemingly simple act of putting a camera in the hands of partici- pants can redefine their relationship to the research (cf., Clark and Dierberg Forthcoming 2012). They are no longer passive subjects responding to a researcher’s queries; they become fieldworkers who reveal answers to questions researchers might never have asked. The data are produced by participants: they are in the driver’s seat, they make decisions about what is important (or not). As a result they can guide us down new conceptual paths, helping us see the social world in new ways. As participants step back from their taken-for-granted social lives to reflect on their own visual images, themes such as meaning, community, relationships, memory, religion, and spirituality may emerge. PEis stimulate agency among participants and stimulate reflexivity about their social world.
Images and the narratives they evoke can introduce rich layers of detail and nudge research in directions that might not be anticipated by interviews alone. Reflecting on his work using researcher-produced aerial images and historical photographs in interviews with farmers, Harper observes that these photos encouraged them to see their social world from a new perspective, one that presses beyond taken-for-granted categories depicted in “illustrations in the many farm magazines found in the house and shop” (Harper 2002:13). He refers to this capacity to help people see in new ways as “the breaking of frames.” In our own projects, participant-produced photographs were particularly helpful in understanding the ways in which religion shows up beyond taken-for-granted or pre-categorized boxes. What sounded in an initial interview like a routine daily walk with a beloved dog (see Photo) turns out to be the site of daily prayers that include family, friends, neighborhood, work, and more. The religious and spiritual significance only became apparent when the stories started with a photograph (Williams 20106). Where Harper’s photos offered his research participants a new perspective on farming, our participants’ photos broke the frames of the researchers, thereby opening a new window on lived religion. In turn, the images generated by visual methods enable researchers to present their findings in compelling ways.
Harper also suggests that images may act as bridges between culturally distinct worlds, allowing researchers and subjects to come to a shared understanding of the contents and meanings an image may represent. Where researchers do not share religious traditions with their subjects or are working across significant cultural barriers (as in Williams’ study of international students), photographs can help to bridge those social differences. International students, no matter how proficient in English, may still face difficulties in describing the role of faith in their everyday lives, but a photo they took provided a place to start the conversation.
Listening to Everyday Stories
While interviews provide excellent access to individual autobiographical narratives, and photo elicitation provides access that helps to cross linguistic and cultural barriers, the mundane happenings of everyday life are harder to capture. So long as we assume that religion is best understood as a stable set of beliefs that fit a predetermined set of categories, no such everyday data are necessary. Nor does everyday activity matter if it is a religious identity label or religious organizational membership and participation that are the object of study. Research questions that address lived religion, that expect religion to exist “outside the box;’ are another matter. They can best be addressed by multiple methods and especially by methods that bring to the participant’s mind the routine and habitual activities that are sometimes obscured by more reflective exercises and conversations. Just as taking photographs can take the participant into everyday places, keeping a diary or journal—recorded in any of a variety of formats—can evoke the daily patterns of activity.
Diaries have rarely been used in the study of religion, but they are fairly common in other research in the social sciences and beyond. Researchers studying language acquisition and other educational outcomes have often given students recorders so as to assess their patterns of speech.7 “Time diaries” have also become familiar tools for people studying household labor, health behaviors, and the like (Juster and Stafford 1985; Bianchi, Robinson, and Milkie 2006). Participants are asked to chart exactly when various activities begin and end each day, and/or to walk through all the activities of a single day. Some researchers have used naturalistic recording of household activity, as well (Thomas-Lepore et al. 2004). Both oral and video diaries have been used extensively by medical researchers, especially in seeking better methods of treatment for chronic illnesses. Rather than relying on the patient’s recall in an interview with a care provider, they have added a variety of audio and video recording projects that invite patients themselves to show and tell the stories of their illness, taking the provider into the settings in which they live and introducing the people whose responses to their illness often shape the outcomes (Rich et al. 2000; Rich and Patashnick 2002). What sociologists of religion can learn from these efforts is that it is possible to get good data by inviting a participant to record stories in a guided but self-directed fashion.
Convinced that such recorded everyday stories could be useful, the “Spiritual Narratives in Everyday Life” project provided participants with a digital recorder, taught them how to use it, and asked them to record five-to-fifteen minutes of stories each day for a week. They were given a document that included a set of suggestions for what kinds of stories they might tell, but they were left free to choose when to record and exactly what to record. We suggested that they think of the exercise “as if you were keeping a diary, or perhaps as if you were talking to a friend or family member and telling them stories about what’s going on in your life.” We asked them to start each day’s recording by musing about what might be most memorable about the day when they later looked back on it. But we also told them, “Even if nothing special seemed to happen, what were the ordinary things that happened that are the most important parts of your life right now?” Beyond that, we suggested a variety of kinds of stories about specific daily happenings—about family, work, leisure, friends—but said, “use as many of these suggestions as you like,” but also, “feel free to talk about other things that you think are important for understanding your everyday life.”
A few participants found this sort of routine recording of thoughts and events to be very awkward, but the vast majority completed either two or three separate week-long rounds of recording, several of them quite enthusiastically. As we analyzed the resulting data, we learned more about the work, household, and leisure lives of these participants than interviews had revealed, seeing more clearly how and where spiritual dimensions of life were enacted. Comparing the stories told in the oral diaries to stories told in photo elicitation and initial interviews, spiritual talk was no more nor less present. Oral diaries were not, in other words, peculiarly likely to evoke introspection or religious insight. Rather, participants used this method of communicating with us in ways that reflected their overall propensity to see life as spiritual (or not). Given the framing of the “Spiritual Narratives” project as a set of conversations in which “spirituality” was a key focus, all of the interactions between researcher and participant were co-constructions of what that term would be taken to mean. As Barbara Gibson has noted, diaries (in her case, video diaries) are not best understood as more “direct” measures of actual activity. Like all other accounts, they are part of the identity work being done by participants and are inevitably oriented to a specific research context (Gibson 2005).
Beyond that basic fact of co-construction, there are at least three other factors that may shape the way oral diary data on religion may be generated. First, accounts will likely be shaped by the participant’s overall propensity to narrate life in spiritual terms (which is, in turn, highly correlated with organized religious participation). What the diaries in this project allowed was not so much an assessment of whether and how intensely a person is “religious.” The strength of the method is in exploring the implications of that religiosity and its presence and absence in domains outside religious institutions. We can see, for instance, that religion has its primary presence at work in the conversations and relationships among co-workers, rather than in larger questions of vocational choice or explicitly “religious” activities like proselytizing. We hear about meals out and parties with friends from the religious community, enhancing understanding·of how religious participation affects daily life. And we inadvertently discover the places, such as cars during daily commutes, where religious practices like meditating, praying and listening to religious music may occur.8
Second, oral diaries may be shaped by the increasing intimacy between researcher and participant that is fostered by an extended period of multi-method interaction. Stories told in general, vague, or overly-positive terms in an initial interview may be elaborated, specified, and sometimes contradicted by the stories recorded in the oral diaries. One participant in Ammerman’s project who alluded in the interview to her husband’s marginal commitment to Catholicism, for instance, recorded in her diary an extended and anguished account of an argument with him over her refusal to use the Pill. Another woman, whose interview was full of glowing accounts of parenthood, balanced those accounts in her diaries with her worries that she might not be doing a good job as a mother and that her church friends may think less of her. And an Episcopal man who only talked in general during his interview about attending church “when I can,” recorded multiple stories about services he attended and the role of the church as he navigated the death of a parent. In these and other cases, the “hegemonic discourses” about religion—keeping it private, reasonable, and positive—are supplemented by more intimate stories of a more present, but also more ambiguous, force in everyday life.
Third, participants are likely to shape their recordings into particular genres that followed modes of communication and story-telling familiar to them (Maynes, Pierce and Laslett 2008). Daily entries, for instance, may resemble one end of a phone conversation between friends. By the time Ammerman’s participants engaged in this exercise, they had had multiple interactions with their researcher and addressed that person by name—”Hello Emily, this is Sally…”‘ It is likely that the length of the entry was not unlike the length of that person’s average personal phone conversation. Checking in with a friend, talking about what is happening at the moment, even ranting about particular frustrations is a familiar genre of speech in which the conversation partner (like the imagined researcher) is not physically present. Other participants may slip more comfortably into a devotional mode, even occasionally speaking as if to God. Just as they might speak a prayer to a divine conversation partner who is not physically present, they may adopt this genre in talking about their lives to their digital recorder. A few may also adopt a teaching or proselytizing mode, making sure that whoever might later listen to their words will know the truths about God that guide that person’s life.
At each stage of our research, data collection techniques informed and shaped the relationship between participants and researchers in productive ways. As the formality of semi-structured interviews gave way to the familiarity of snapshots of everyday life, and as coffee table conversations over these images prompted intimacy in daily oral diaries, subjects became co-investigators and expert-researchers became confidants. While we may have anticipated the purchase of these methods in generating data, we underestimated the dramatic ways in which this progression of techniques produced intimacy, trust, and agency. In Goffman’s terms, this combination of techniques took the exploration of religion from the relatively well-managed front-stage presented in a single interview to the less tidy, improvised, and complicated realm of the backstage (Goffman 1959). Stories about the lived religion that we found there were less neatly packaged but can suggest new ways to think about how religion has its effects in the world. Research participants live in a world that defines “proper” religion no less than research investigators live in a theoretical world where only some kinds of religion are visible. Going backstage means allowing subaltern characters and hidden meanings to emerge.
The deepening of the researcher-subject relationship and the messiness of backstage data poses an important challenge, however: telling enough of the story to show its inherent logic and fullness, while still maintaining one’s interpretive discipline over it (Maynes, Pierce and Laslett 2008). As in any other kind of social analysis, the interpreter is always sorting and framing the results. The multiple ways in which narrative interviewing strategies, photo elicitation interviews, and oral diaries contest and break the frames of subjects and researchers adds additional complexity to one’s analysis. The usual challenge is to situate knowledge in the context of the social interaction in which it was generated. The use of multiple methods increases that complexity, adding questions of genre as well as questions of the evolving relationship between researcher and participant. These analytical challenges are, however, likely to add their own richness to the insights that multiple methods can afford in the study of lived religion. Both new methods and new analytical strategies promise to add significantly to what and how we know about religion.
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