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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEUnfreezing the frame: The promise of inductive research in Bahá'í studies
AUTHOR 1Will C. van den Hoonaard
TITLE_PARENTBahá'í Studies Review
PUB_THISAssociation for Bahá'í Studies English-Speaking Europe
ABSTRACTThe suitability of inductive analysis as a method in Bahá'í scholarship, and some stumbling blocks that inhibit the development of a Bahá'í methodology.
Abstract: This paper explores the suitability of inductive analysis as a method in Bahá'í scholarship. It also looks at a number of stumbling blocks that inhibit the development of a Bahá'í methodology, whether inductive or otherwise. By examining Bahá'í studies from an inductive perspective, we note a reluctance to bridge the gap between Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í studies on the Bahá'í community, aspects of Bahá'í studies that limit the participation of women, the tendency among Bahá'í publishing scholarly outlets to reproduce "comfort" methodologies, and the workings of at least seven Bahá'í scholarly clusters that organize and structure discourse on Bahá'í methodologies which inhibit the rise of new perspectives. The paper proposes some six ways to unfreeze the methodological frame that seems to guide current Bahá'í methodological practice and discourse.
An inductive methodology
The Universal House of Justice has expressed its concern about using a "humanistic" or "materialistic" methodology as a means of studying religion.[2] We can only infer from its other texts that a humanistic or materialistic methodology prioritizes the social context over the divine context in explaining societal phenomena.[3] But, from the specific Bahá'í perspective, what are the parameters of a "materialistic" methodology? Lest we initially assume that a Bahá'í methodology excludes positivism and deductive reasoning[4] — the hallmark of "objectivity" — we need to refer to a recent piece[5] which highlights the promise and benefits of positivism and deductive thinking.[6] We seem to have arrived at a point where the Bahá'í research frame is frozen, seemingly locked between formal and informal Bahá'í research statements and practices. I intend, however, to approach the topic of Bahá'í methodology from an inductive angle. `Abdu'l-Bahá stated that "through processes of inductive reasoning and research" a scientific person "is informed of all that appertains to humanity, its status, conditions and happenings."[7]

Peter Kivisto, a Catholic scholar, noted that scholars wanted a "theologically grounded sociological position, one that sought to utilize interpretive tools from the social sciences that harmonized with the Catholic faith."[8] Within Islam, there were efforts to "Islamize" anthropology in order to look at Islamic "ideology, culture, or way of life, [as] as a process of deliberate obedience to God's laws."[9] However, scholars from other faiths, unable to thaw the frame, derived a subsidiary position: they would examine the "material and secondary efficient causes of society," leaving the first-order Cause (e.g. interventions by God) to theologians.[10]

Recently, we have witnessed a rebellion — and even an outright rejection — of that mainstream, deductive scientific model as a means to capture human and social reality. In the human and social sciences, with the exception of psychology in North America, the interpretive paradigm[11] is gaining ground.[12] An inductive social science emphasizes the meanings that a group assigns to its own actions and statements. Such a sociology attempts to arrive at the world view as understood by the subjects in its study. The primary sociological perspective that has fostered inductive analysis is symbolic interactionism which rests on three premises:

  • human beings act towards things on the basis of the meanings that the things have for them;
  • the meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with one's fellows [sic]; and
  • these meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he [sic] encounters.[13]

This kind of sociology rejects the use of variables, claiming that they are the researchers' constructs of social life, rather than the subjects'. An inductive methodology is "grounded" in the data: the researcher pays close attention to how theory fits data, while a deductive sociology tries to fit data into theory. Above all, it is meanings and social interaction that constitute the world of data.[14] Attitudes and action are pregnant with meaning. Inductive research, however, is more than "believer intelligibility." The two terms (i.e. inductive research and believer intelligibility) are not synonymous, because inductive research involves analysis. It starts out from the perspective of the believers (in our case), but moves the data into conceptual frameworks.

The method of studying group life and the character of a people (in our case, the Bahá'í community) sways between an "objective" and "subjective" approach. Still, for some scholars looking at the Bahá'í community, the prevailing desired stance is one of objectivity. As a consequence, some writers pursue a statistical fetish as a means to denote the growth and social context of the Bahá'í community.[15] In any case, as Susan Maneck explains, "the idea that one can achieve an immaculate state of epistemological objectivity only leads one to mask one's presuppositions and ideological commitments under a facade of objectivity...."[16]

Samuel Heilman, a Jewish sociologist, outlines an ironic danger of merging academic interests with the objective study of one's own community: estrangement and marginalisation from his community when such a study involves the objective approach, derived from what Max Weber has advocated: the value of neutrality, of objectivity in social scientific research. He cites Robert Merton's predilection for the "outsider doctrine."[17] Insiders have a "structurally imposed incapacity to comprehend their own group because, having been socialized into its way of life, they no longer are capable of being sensitive to the grammar of its conduct and nuances of its cultural idiom in any objective way."[18] As Heilman[19] and many others[20] have shown, the reports of such outsiders have on occasion led to puzzlement, bewilderment, and humour among the studied who were not able to discern themselves in these reports. These reports lacked authenticity, as is the case with some of the work of sociologists who are not Bahá'ís, or in fact in works produced by Bahá'ís who favour the deductive method.[21]

When one follows the discussions among sociologists (and anthropologists) who are Bahá'ís, one is invariably drawn to compare the research and activities of these social scientists with some striking semblances that visit other "religious sociologies." It should be borne in mind that discussions about "religious sociologies" have waned — in fact the latest discussion about the divide between sociology and religion occurred some ten years ago.[22] Since then, sociologists of every type of religious conviction have carried out empirical research without any reference to that divide. Increasingly, scholars argue against reductionism of spiritual accounts to social or psychological explanations.[23] Bahá'ís can be excused for entering so late into the debate of "religious sociology," for we have few sociologists and no regular medium of contact. However, there is a way out of the deductive conundrum.

What has not yet come to the fore in Bahá'í studies — as it has in the social sciences as a whole — is the "new ethnography" and narrative life histories which can address the angst that Bahá'ís express about having social research conducted in the Bahá'í community. These "new ethnographies" indicate not just a strong resurgence of traditional research methods involving field research. They are attempts to understand cultures in a more delicate and theoretically complex way. This movement also underscores the pervasive and inalienable influence of the researcher's own culture when he or she explores other cultural settings. More importantly, the "new ethnographies" spell an end to the author-evacuated and passive style of writing, which we have come to associate with "objective" or "realist" research.[24] Contemporary ethnographers who advocate the "new ethnography" would convey all the elements involved in writing ethnographies, especially the role of the researcher, in the construction of other peoples' cultures, or even his or her own culture or community. The researcher's own experience in the field is relevant to the nature of his or her results.

Van Maanen presents us with new nomenclature for this approach.[25] "Confessional tales" are characterized by "their highly personalized styles and their self-absorbed mandates" to "explicitly demystify field work" in response to critics who claim that field research has no scientific merit.[26] "Impressionist tales" are out to "startle their audience" with an imaginative rendering of fieldwork, while using a "dramatic" and "vibrant" style of writing.[27] As might be expected, the new research quest has led to a broader spectrum of ethnographic possibilities that adumbrate life histories, narratives, the authenticity and role of everyday myths,[28] ambiguous depictions of culture,[29] and subjective understanding. This approach then differs widely from the traditional and conventional patterns of scholarship.

The social organisation of Bahá'í studies
How do we as Bahá'ís fare in terms of these newer methodologies in the human and social sciences? Does the social organisation of Bahá'í studies hinder or promote these advances? Let us examine more closely the nature of the Bahá'í methodological enterprise today. In many respects, my argument parallels Howard Becker's discussion on "methodology."[30] Becker points out that the centuries-long discourse about methods has not really brought us any closer to how scientists, especially social scientists, go about conducting research. In his analogous discussion, he reminds us of longstanding debates about what constitutes "truth," "beauty," or the "aesthetic," but what is of far greater interest is finding out what the participants in the art worlds mean by those terms and how they go about producing those works. Similarly, while it might be useful to understand ideally how research proceeds, the net accomplishment of scientific methodology is the result in what scientists do, not necessarily what they have assumed about doing scientific work in the abstract. The on-going belief that what researchers do is a reflection of some abstract consideration of "methodology" has resulted in scores of scholars and scientists believing in formal methodology, while practising something else on the ground. The myth that what we learn in school about "methodology" is "real" and what we do when we engage in research often deviates from that formal model results in less-than-honest reports of the methodology we have employed. This situation becomes more complicated for us Bahá'í scholars, novice and veteran, who must try to resolve the initial dilemma between what we are learning from our respective fields and our mandated struggle against "atheistic" or "materialistic" methodologies when trying to explore some facet of the Bahá'í Faith or Bahá'í community.

Elsewhere, I have attempted to explore the social organisation of Bahá'í studies.[31] In this paper I will touch only upon those facets that strike me as the essentials of what Bahá'ís have been doing. The totality of current Bahá'í methodologies is part of a social organisation of Bahá'í studies that is structured around gender, Bahá'í publishing outlets, and the presence of several distinctive Bahá'í scholarly communities or clusters. These elements play a large role in the manner in which we interact with the larger academic world and sometimes restrict that interaction, which is so necessary to developing a more rounded Bahá'í methodology.

Working in parallel systems
In such a context, we tend to give high salience to formal methodological statements, favouring "objective" stances. What we downplay or, more commonly, ignore are those aspects of methodology that are not part of that formal structure, namely personal interest in the subject matter, serendipity, coincidence, inspiration, lack of time, opposition, poorly-chosen research tools, and our beliefs as Bahá'ís. In such a setting, we find that the formal methodology is socially reproduced, while what really happens in research is pushed into footnotes, prefaces, and acknowledgements.[32]

We have casualties: some become disappointed with their education or training, others come to believe that, after all, they are not cut out to be "real" scholars or scientists, and many others simply compartmentalize the formal and practical bases of methodology. How these two models of methodology have managed to co-exist in the minds and hearts of researchers would be a fascinating subject, but is beyond the scope of this paper. Hence, my reluctance to prescribe, in deductive terms, a Bahá'í "methodology" when undertaking Bahá'í studies. Rather, my proclivity is to understand what happens when scholars engage in Bahá'í research.

The gender knot
Both women and men are complicit in the social construction of inequality that pervades our fields. The Bahá'í call for equality is a counterpoint to the competitive spirit under which our scholarship suffers. Both women and men need to work together on untying the gender knot.[33] The issue of gender bears directly on particular methodological outlooks in two ways. Male Bahá'í scholars still far outnumber female scholars. However, it is not simply a question of numbers. The issue of gender goes straight to the heart of methodological preferences. Female Bahá'í scholars — many of whom hold untenurable university positions or are recent PhD graduates — are concentrated in the lower social echelons of Bahá'í studies, including the social sciences. As the social sciences have emerged from the dark ages of positivism and have become increasingly strident about using inductive methodologies and qualitative analysis, it is the women who are primarily raising concerns about representation and issues of "voice."[34]
Bahá'í publishing outlets
Bahá'í publishing outlets compound, to some extent, the problem of methodology. There is no tight fit, but each of the major Bahá'í journals seems to favour certain approaches. World Order magazine, for example, seems mainly concerned with the public presentation of the teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, so it adheres to "normal science," a perspective that resonates with officials and the general public. The Journal of Bahá'í Studies seems to promote a theological, Bahá'í writings-based approach, relying heavily on conventional methods employed by psychology and social work.[35] The Bahá'í Studies Review exemplifies a tone and content more representative of the historical and social-scientific approach — a format favoured by Bahá'ís who are academics.

The surfeit of Bahá'í journals for such a small global community, however, has had the unintended consequence of drawing potentially interesting Bahá'í articles out of mainstream or core journals in various fields. As a result, Bahá'í authors have settled into a methodological comfort zone which, in turn, is not invigorated by the exchange of ideas which would more naturally come from reviewers who do not share particular aspects of those "comfort methodologies." That is not to say that Bahá'í journals are deprived of some of the finer gems of scholarship and that non-Bahá'í journals have seen some of the more evangelical documents, either as dissertations or as articles.[36] One could even suggest that as the sorts of articles published in Bahá'í journals might not have been published elsewhere, that it has had a beneficial effect on novice Bahá'í scholars.

Bahá'í scholarly clusters
Howard Becker, in his study on the creation, production, and distribution of art,[37] adapts a term used by artists to refer to the whole borderless community that makes art possible, namely "art worlds." The social organisation of art worlds requires a division of labour, cooperative links, conventions, mobilizing resources of all kinds, patronage, sales by dealers, agents, culture industries, and so on. It is a world where the initiative and work of an artist is linked in many tangible and intangible ways to a wide variety of things that make his or her art possible, from someone's making a particular colour chalk to the organisation of an art gallery. Such "worlds" define what constitutes normative or deviant art, a place where some artists do not see others as genuine artists, but they do all constitute a part of that art world. We can extend the idea of "worlds" to other areas of human endeavour, whether they are music, schooling, plumbing, nursing, or the world of Bahá'í scholarship.

The presence of several distinctive scholarly communities in the English-speaking Bahá'í world highlights the lack of sustained contact among Bahá'í scholars. I am ambivalent about whether the existence of these clusters hinders or benefits the development of new ideas in methodology. With each cluster promoting a distinctive stance (rather than a variety of stances) new methodologies are perhaps less likely to arise. These clusters of Bahá'í scholarly activity are defined by a preference of methods, choice of subject matter, discourse, and, sometimes, geography. I must rely on the reader to know that the following sketches are simple characterizations which, from another perspective, may not resemble the cluster I am attempting to describe.[38]

I should perhaps mention first the British Lancaster/Newcastle-upon-Tyne cluster which features some of our most prominent Bahá'í scholars today. The works by Peter Smith have set a high standard.[39] The cluster underscores the importance of an historical approach, maintains a positivistic outlook as standard research practice, and values the use, translation, interpretation, and contextualization of the Bahá'í writings. Its publications frequently appear in The Bahá'í Studies Review. There is a constant form of exchange between this cluster and scholars, both Iranian and non-Iranian, in the Netherlands, the United States, and Canada.

A second cluster is American. The forerunner of this cluster was several PhD dissertations undertaken by students who had little, if any, interconnection. Today's cluster represents a mix of historical writing and critical commentaries. We recall the Dialogue mini-cluster, with a penchant for a style and spirit of writing that was often critical of the Bahá'í community. Along with the mini-cluster of activity in Michigan and Indiana, these small clusters have evoked strong images of the unresolved dilemmas when academics undertake the study of the Bahá'í Faith and Bahá'í community. Kalimát Press functions in many respects as an international publisher of Bahá'í scholarly monographs. It draws on a wide body of Bahá'í writers and readers, many beyond North America. I should, however, make special note of the office of research of the national spiritual assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States which has initiated, maintained, and promoted contact with several of the clusters referred to in this paper.

A third cluster consists of continental Europe, with its vigorous focus on defending the Bahá'í Faith from external attacks. Strongly versed in historical and scriptural texts, there is a deep concern for defining the Bahá'í Faith as an independent world religion.[40]

I might point out that one emerging cluster — the one that I am most familiar with — namely that of Canada, has a distinctive style of Bahá'í scholarship with two contrasting approaches. One has a marked psychological, social-work flavour which originally led to the formation of the Association for Bahá'í Studies in 1973. The other is primarily sociological in its orientation, notable for its inductive research. The cluster, as a whole, is marked by differences of tone and purpose between those who prefer a deductive orientation, steeped in the natural sciences and math — a positivistic approach, and those who advocate an inductive approach.

A fifth cluster is only characterised by the fact of their institutional affiliation of its components. Whereas the previous four clusters are not in any sense formal, the fifth consists of formally-established Bahá'í agencies. They include the various "chairs" of Bahá'í studies (or variations thereof) in India, Maryland, and Jerusalem. Many Bahá'ís infer the scope and intent of Bahá'í scholarship from what the Universal House of Justice has proclaimed about these places. Several scholars from other clusters have lectured at meetings organised by members of this cluster, but it is still too early to determine the methodologies that will be nurtured by these centres.

The sixth cluster represents scholars who manage to straddle creatively the divide between academia and the Bahá'í community. Members of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne group have achieved this, as have Richard Thomas' writings on race relations in the Bahá'í community,[41] June Thomas' exploration of social planning,[42] David Piff's work on Bahá'í rumour,[43] and Graham Hassall's study of the Bahá'í presence in the Pacific. All share the characteristic of being publishable in both Bahá'í and non-Bahá'í outlets.[44]

The Bahá'í Encyclopedia Project represents a seventh cluster. The project, started in 1984, represents an amalgam of scholarly activity, held in check by substantial methodological differences among its some 350 contributors and editors and by a slowly emerging consensus among Bahá'í bodies as to its purpose and scope. The project has drawn on all of the clusters for a large bank of articles of varying quality and scope. Its influence as a methodological exercise will only become known in due course.

Unfreezing the frame
Where do we go from here? Here is what I would consider an optimistic perspective. The elements that contribute to unfreezing the Bahá'í methodological frame are a matter of audience and time, of scholarly maturation, of casting a positive outlook on working through the tensions between in-house and external perspectives, of stepping away from mission-driven research, and of more actively creating a welcoming atmosphere for women scholars.
Intended audience and the passing of time
A researcher must speak to an audience appropriate to his or her methodological approach. If, for example, in a peer-review process, a scholar's efforts are deemed unsatisfactory, then that would be a judgment grounded in a particular scholarly audience. If, on the other hand, the general Bahá'í community deems the work satisfactory — and if that is the chosen audience of arbitration — then one assumes the consequences of that judgment. It makes no sense to render a judgment by an audience for which the work was not intended. This approach also fosters a much-needed diversity in Bahá'í studies as scholars seek to marry with varying degrees of success (and possibly failure) the formal Bahá'í methodological stance, as advocated by Bahá'í bodies, and what really happens methodologically. It is the prerogative of the Bahá'í scholar to determine which audience will arbitrate his or her work. If more than one audience is satisfied, all the better; if only one audience is satisfied, we would leave it at that.
Scholarly maturation
In terms of methodology, too, we must rely on the scholar's own judgment about a suitable methodology. Such judgment comes out of one's training, one's personal bent or tradition, and out of one's faith with a particular eye on what Bahá'í institutions themselves assert as a proper methodology. The matter becomes seriously more complex when one factors in the preferences of one's discipline, an impatience on the part of the Bahá'í community to see relevance in the methodology, and shifts in one's stance due to maturation and scholarly experience, both individually and collectively.
Tensions between in-house and external perspectives
We can all expect to experience tensions that come from the struggle between what is perceived to be the official Bahá'í methodology and any methodology derived from one's discipline and/or experience. Attempts by Bahá'í social scientists, for example, to look at the Bahá'í community involve the fear of becoming a stranger to that community, or the researcher begins to define oneself as a stranger.[45] Can that research process be used not only as a further means to understanding the workings of the Bahá'í community, but also to challenge and enrich prevailing research methodologies? We do not need to surrender Bahá'í studies to those who are not Bahá'ís in order to develop a sophisticated and relevant methodology (although this could be a consequence of insisting on a particular, exclusive methodology). It is imperative, nevertheless, to engage the wider academic world in the pursuit of Bahá'í studies, either through Bahá'ís obtaining research grants or publishing in peer-reviewed journals, or inviting non-Bahá'í scholars into the house of Bahá'í studies, especially through their publishing in Bahá'í journals.
Stepping away from mission-driven research
Perhaps other disciplines are more suited to mission-driven research, but in sociology, it is fraught with ethical problems. As an example, should such research answer the criticism that the Bahá'í community is "invisible,"[46] that it has a utilitarian doctrine and as such it appeals to western minds,[47] or that the Bahá'í community is analogous to a panopticon?[48] Would our immediate reaction to such claims, however unsubstantiated, have a more limited influence than a substantial, whole-scale research and publication program on the part of all of the Bahá'í clusters of scholarship?

An inductive approach to Bahá'í studies avoids the pitfall of having to deal with the "truth-content" of either social science or the Bahá'í Faith: on one hand, this approach avoids the tendency of having to fasten Bahá'í developments to a social theory, explanation, or context that might be alien to the Bahá'í spirit; on the other hand, it avoids the temptation to engage in mission-driven research (such as, for example, how can my sociological study improve "universal participation in the Bahá'í community?").

Such an approach also avoids debates about how the Bahá'í Faith should be characterised, whether it is a religion, a world religion, a new religious movement, or a sect. Of course, what interests us is how believers, the Bahá'í institutions, opponents, or sympathizers define the Bahá'í Faith as a means to understand the perspective and definitions of the situation that they bring into their thoughts and actions which pertain to the Bahá'í community. Efforts to gain legitimacy as a world religion would, however, invite sociological research.

This paper has outlined some of the advantages of approaching the study of the Bahá'í community from an inductive perspective which embeds the research fully in the context of the meanings that Bahá'ís assign to the things they say and do. It is a grounded perspective that attempts to retain the integrity of the research "subjects," ensuring that the gathered data maintain a meaningful place in relationship to the wider belief system. I have also presented some of the obstacles in the social organisation of Bahá'í studies that stand in the way of arriving at an inductive approach. What is needed is clear: an openness to the world which would allow us to explore new methodologies and approaches which, however tentative those methodologies are, could result in meaningful studies of the Bahá'í Faith and the Bahá'í community, at least in its next stage of development.

End Notes
  1. I am indebted to Deborah van den Hoonaard for offering valuable criticism of this paper, and to Hoda Mahmoudi and Michael McMullen for offering insights about an earlier, parallel paper. I am also grateful to Leonda W. Keniston, Lynn Echevarria, Carol Black, and Paula Drewek for ongoing discussions on this topic. I presented an earlier draft of this paper to a conference on Foundational Issues in Bahá'í Studies held at Merton College, Oxford, 1 April 2000.
  2. The Universal House of Justice, letter to a national spiritual assembly dated 4 October 1994 cited in The Bahá'í Studies Review 5.1 (1995): 138-139, points to the confusion created by "dogmatic materialism today which insists that even the nature of religion itself can be adequately understood only through the use of an academic methodology designed to ignore the truths that make religion what it is."
  3. Ibid.
  4. Anthony Giddens sees three varieties of positivism (cited by Anthony M. Orum, "The Varieties of Sociological Experience," Contemporary Sociology [1980]: 748), while Peter Halfpenny evokes at least 20 definitions of positivism ("Guide to the Literature," Department of Sociology, Manchester University, Mimeo, 1972). Talcott Parsons (in The Structure of Social Action, Vol. 1 [New York: The Free Press, 1968]) presents the basis and theory of positivism that was (and still is) quite current among many sociologists.
  5. Farzam Arbab, "Knowledge and Civilization: Implications for the Community and the Individual," The Bahá'í World, 1997-1998 (Haifa: Bahá'í World Publications, 1999): 157-178.
  6. Terry Poirier queries this positivistic approach (email letter to the Universal House of Justice, dated 12 December 1999) (copy in possession of author).
  7. Research Department of the Universal House of Justice, Scholarship: Extracts from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh and `Abdu'l-Bahá and from the Letters of Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice (Mona Vale, Australia: Bahá'í Publications Australia, 1995) 2.
  8. Peter Kivisto, "The Brief Career of Catholic Sociology," Sociological Analysis 50.4 (1989): 356.
  9. Richard Tapper, "`Islamic Anthropology' and the `Anthropology of Islam'," Anthropological Quarterly 68.3 (1995): 188.
  10. Kivisto, op. cit., 357.
  11. The interpretive paradigm is a rather vast label, but it covers phenomenology, qualitative analysis, inductive research, life-history analysis, narrative analysis, and so forth.
  12. David Rennie, Kimberley D. Watson, and Althea Monteiro, "Qualitative Research in Canadian Psychology," (2000), Mimeo, 18pp.
  13. Herbert G. Blumer, Symbolic Interactionism: Perspective and Method (Berkeley, CA: U. of California Press, 1986) 2; Will. C. van den Hoonaard, Working with Sensitizing Concepts: Analytical Field Research (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997).
  14. Sociologists who are Bahá'ís are also drawn to the works of Georg Simmel who offered timeless insights about the nature of society and interaction while acknowledging the central role of spirituality. He advocates inductive generalizations about social evolution (Kurt H. Wolf, The Sociology of Georg Simmel [New York: Free Press, 1964] xxiv).
  15. See, for example, William Garlington, email posting to H-NET List for Bahá'í Studies, (17 Aug. 1998).
  16. Susan Maneck, email posting to H-NET List for Bahá'í Studies, (12 May 1997).
  17. Samuel C. Heilman, "Jewish Sociologist: Native-as-`Stranger'," The American Sociologist 15 (1980): 106.
  18. Ibid., 101.
  19. Ibid., 102.
  20. John Van Maanen, Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).
  21. An article on the "Nacirema" is perhaps the earliest satire on the "objective" method. Using this approach, the anthropologist stretched Nacireman ("American" spelled backwards) culture beyond recognition (Horace Miner, "Body Ritual Among the Nacirema," American Anthropologist 58.3 [1956]: 503-507).
  22. Sociological Analysis carried this debate in 1989 (vol. 50).
  23. See, in particular, Lorne L. Dawson, Comprehending Cults (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  24. Clifford Geertz, Local Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1983).
  25. Van Maanen, Tales of the Field.
  26. Ibid., 73.
  27. Ibid., 102.
  28. e.g., Raphael Samuel and Paul Thompson, The Myths We Live By (2d ed. London: Routledge, 1993).
  29. Van Maanen, Tales of the Field 127.
  30. Howard S. Becker, "The Epistemology of Qualitative Research," in Richard Jessor, Anne Colby, and Richard Schweder, eds., Ethnography and Human Development: Context and Meaning in Social Enquiry (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).
  31. Will C. van den Hoonaard, "The Social Organization of Mentorship in Bahá'í Studies," Journal of Bahá'í Studies 8.3 (1997):19-38.
  32. See Shulamit Reinharz, On Becoming a Social Scientist (4th ed. New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1993); Laurel Richardson, Writing Strategies: Reaching Diverse Audiences (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1990).
  33. Allan G. Johnson, The Gender Knot: Unraveling our Patriarchal Legacy (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1997).
  34. E.g., Susan B. Brill, "Conversive Relationality in Bahá'í Scholarship: Centering the Sacred and Decentering the Self," Journal of Bahá'í Studies 7.2 (1995): 1-28. There is an increasing number of published works devoted to the emergence of qualitative and inductive research, incl. Howard S. Becker, Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about Your Research While You're Doing It [Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1998]; Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author [Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988]; John Van Maanen, Representation in Ethnography [Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995); Reinharz (op. cit.); and Norman K. Denzin, Interpretive Ethnography: Ethnographic Practices for the 21st Century [Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage,1996]. The annual Canadian "Qualitative Analysis Conference," of which my wife and I are regular attendees, and sometimes the organizers, is completely organized for these researchers, the majority of whom are women.
  35. I explore this theme in van den Hoonaard (op. cit.). I found that, of the first 121 articles published by The Journal of Bahá'í Studies, 35% were dedicated to discussing the Bahá'í writings or theology, 20% were oriented in an applied direction, 15% involved history, and 12% literature and the fine arts. It would be useful to compare similar trends in the other Bahá'í journals, beyond the schematic impression I am giving here.
  36. E.g., James J. Keene, "Bahá'í: Redefinition of Religion," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 6.2 (1967): 221-235; and "Religious Behavior and Neuroticism, Spontaneity, and Worldmindedness," Sociometry 30 (1967): 137-157.
  37. Howard S. Becker, Arts Worlds (Los Angeles, University of California Press: 1982).
  38. One can locate these clusters by reading the referrals in the prefaces and acknowledgements in Bahá'í scholarly works.
  39. E.g., Peter Smith, "Motif Research: Peter Berger and the Bahá'í Faith," Religion 8 (1978): 210-234; and The Babi and Bahá'í Religions: From Messianic Shi`ism to a World Religion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987); Peter Smith and Moojan Momen, "The Bahá'í Faith, 1957-1988: A Survey of Contemporary Developments," Religion 19 (1989): 62-91.
  40. E.g., Udo Schaefer, The Bahá'í Faith: Sect or Religion? (Ottawa, ON: Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1988); Udo Schaefer, Nicola Towfigh, and Ulrich Gollmer, Making the Crooked Straight: A Contribution to Bahá'í Apologetics (Oxford: George Ronald, 2000); and Huschmand Sabet, Der Gespaltene Himmel (Stuttgart: Verbum-Verlag, 1967).
  41. Richard Thomas, Understanding Interracial Unity: A Study of U.S. Race Relations (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1996).
  42. June Thomas Manning, Planning Progress: Lessons from Shoghi Effendi (Ottawa, ON: Association for Bahá'í Studies, 1999).
  43. David Piff, "The Book of Hearsay: Informal Oral Lore in the Bahá'í Community,"(PhD Dissertation, Department of Sociology of Religion, University of Copenhagen: 1997); "Unofficial Information and Rumour in the Bahá'í Community: The Case of `The Tree They Couldn't Kill'," Bahá'í Studies Review 8 (1998): 45-54; David Piff and Margit Warburg, "Enemies of the Faith: Rumours and Anecdotes as Self-Definition and Social Control in the Bahá'í Religion," In Eileen Barker and Margit Warburg, eds., New Religions and New Religiosity (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 1998): 66-82.
  44. Graham Hassall, "`Outpost of a World Religion': The Bahá'í Faith in Australia, 1920-47," The Journal of Religious History 16.3 (1991): 315-338.
  45. Heilman, op. cit.
  46. Ivan Julian Ruff, "Bahá'í-the Invisible Community," New Society 29 (Sept.12, 1974): 665-668.
  47. Raymond Firth, Essays on Social Organization and Values (London: Athlone Press, 1984) 278.
  48. Juan R.I. Cole, "The Bahá'í Faith in America as Panopticon, 1963-1997," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 37.2 (1998): 234-248.
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