Mediating girlhoods in an age of religious pluralism: A blended ethnography among teen girls in Germany and the Netherlands
Promotionsprojekt von Rebecca L. Anne-Davis
.This project explores how religious pluralism is lived as a teen girl in a Western European context while taking into consideration the elevated role of social media within adolescents’ daily lives. I delve into how female identifying students aged 14-15 from international high schools in Germany and the Netherlands navigate and self-regulate concepts of religious pluralism and secularism in their online and offline lives. Rather than immediately focusing on one specific faith background, this project is constructed in such a way that allows for occurring faith practices among the girls to take precedence. This project contributes to ongoing inter- and trans-disciplinary conversations around religious youth, religious pluralism, secularism, self-regulation, religious morality, digital religious practices, internationalization of religion, and how gender touches all of these concepts.
This project focuses on teen girls’ encounters with other religious and moral worldviews as held within the secular containers of an international high school and social media platforms. During adolescence, youth are in constant potential contact with differing religious and cultural worldviews, both online and offline, that often don’t reflect their understanding of moral behavior (c.f. Ziebertz & Riegel 2008). It is my intention to work with the girls and explore how they experience this pluralism, how they self-regulate, and how they make meaning within these constellations.
Therefore, I ask: How do these female youth go about their religious upbringing and how do they position themselves under the following conditions: family background, religious involvement, social media participation, and integration in a ‘secular’ container of an international high school with relatively high religious diversity? How do relationships and interactions both online and offline in their respective spiritual environment on the one hand, and with peers with different spiritual proclivities on the other hand, influence the processes of their moral and spiritual development? In what ways are they self-regulating their faith experiences as well as interactions with people of various faith backgrounds? In what ways do they experience regulation and mediation of their own faith experience within a ‘secular’ society?
These questions will be explored through ethnographic fieldwork and participant observation first through mixed-gender focus groups at two international schools and then ethnographies with individual girls. International schools have a high probability for religious diversity and have thus been selected as an ideal setting for researching religious plurality. There will be one group from the Rhein-Main area in Germany and one in the province of Groningen in the Netherlands. These localities have been chosen due to their relatively high levels of religious diversity and will be contrasted.
This study finds itself at the intersection of sociology, anthropology, digital media, and girlhood studies. It pulls from theories of religious pluralism, secularization, internationalization, religious authority, morality, agency, self-surveillance and regulation, as well as gender identity. This project is based upon feminist and ethnographic research methodologies. Feminist methodologies highlight the importance of reflexivity and recognizes that there is no such thing as pure objectivity within design or analysis (c.f. Emond 2005; Warren 2000). Understanding this, I work with awareness for my own influence, privilege, and authority in order to immerse myself in the world of the participants in order to construct a storied reality (Madden 2006).