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Title: Sociological factors in patterns of religious conversion and in their investigation
Author: Taylor, Brian
ISNI:       0000 0001 3501 3563
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 1976
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In this thesis, I explore some theoretical, methodological and empirical factors contingent upon the construction of socio-logical analysis of religious conversion. To do this, I employ a tripartite division of intellectual labours, the title of each of my three sections indicating their respective analytic intent. My first section constitutes an exposition and critique of prevailing tendencies in the social-scientific study of conversion. Operating from a necessarily bibliographical basis, I seek to elucidate some dimensions of conceptual unsophistication in the approaches adopted in the extant psychological, historical, anthropological and sociological literature. I focus upon a recurrent confusion of ecology and etiology in such approaches, explicating the resultant stress on the sociocultural antecedents and behavioural consequences of conversion experience at the expense of a prior substantive loyalty to the social construction of that experience itself. Developing discussion from consideration of constructivist and phenomenal approaches within the sociology of religion, I recommend a radically autonomous sociological approach to the analysis of conversion, utilising perspectives operation-alised in extant sociological work on the areas of knowledge, deviance and motivation. I delineate some conceptual desiderata upon which any such analysis will require to be premised, specifying a prior analytic loyalty to those features of converts' accounts of conversion, formulated as responses to motivational questions, which afford the experience of conversion its unique epistemological status. My second section addresses some central methodological issues involved in the satisfactory construction of sociological accounts of conversion experience. Discussion focusses upon the particular areas of language and of biography as exemplifying those peculiar difficulties of epistemological verification which characterise the adequate formulation of such accounts. Extrapolating from a broadly Wittgensteinian perspective on use/meaning distinctions in natural language analysis, I recommend a distillation of some elements of the ethnomethodological paradigm for incorporation into a sociolinguistic approach to the examination of verbalised accounts of conversion experience. I indicate that to ask after the veracity of converts' accounts is to enquire into those procedures whereby truth is conferred by converts upon their experience, and that questions of the epistemological status of that experience may be sociologically reformulated as questions of how converts negotiate its accountability in the course of motivationally accounting for its occurrence. My final section attends to some empirical characteristics of converts' accounts by way of exemplifying and embodying an alternative conception of sociological theorising. Following a nominally processual model of conversion experience, I seek to show how the reality of conversion is known by converts only from within situational contexts constituted through the interactional manifestation of linguistic competence, and how, consequently, talk takes, on the epistemological status and epistemological characteristics of converts' talk as a managed accomplishment of the knowable context of negotiating conversion's accountability. I take up, in a final addendum, the cognitive outcome of the operation of such a sociological mode of analysis. I conclude by indicating the essentially maieutic character of the relationship between converts' accounts and converts' experience as an instance of the manifestation of the equiprimordiality of the relationship between speech and its grounds.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available