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Inter-Religious interaction in urban Australia: the influence of religious-identity on perceptions of 'the Other'


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Chittock, EM 2011 , 'Inter-Religious interaction in urban Australia: the influence of religious-identity on perceptions of 'the Other'', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis explores perceptions of the religious ‘Other’ using symbolic
interactionism as a theoretical framework in the sociology of religion, and a
qualitative research approach of participant observations of eight worship
gatherings: two Jewish, four Christian, and two Islamic; thirty-six in-depth semistructured
interviews of affiliates from each religion; and textual analysis of
political and mass media information.
The thesis explores and provides insight into two areas of religious-related
expression. The first is the nature of religious self-identity from affiliates of
Jewish, Christian, and Islamic worship gatherings and secondly, from that basis,
affiliates’ perceptions of the religious ‘Other’ that arise in a context of religious
This thesis finds that that religious identity is more complex than having a fixed
and single affiliation. Pluralists exist who are fluid in their identity, affiliations,
and practices. Some fundamentalists tolerate and even appreciate difference.
Interfaith interactions are often conducted in a quiet and informal way between
individuals and small groups, rather than in large and spectacular fashion. Those
who encounter mystical spiritual types of experiences are also ‘Other’ because
they, too, ‘think and know differently’. This different way of knowing
complements normally-accepted knowledge sources.
Perceptions of ‘the Other’, then, range from outright rejection and antagonism by
those firmly entrenched in their own beliefs; to ambivalence; and to respect and
appreciation of difference for the opportunities opened for learning, expanding
one’s knowledge and perspective, and for creating an inclusive, shared, and
diverse social context.
The thesis finds that these perceptions of the religious ‘Other’ relate to perceptions
of change, and are based on interpretations of ‘right living’ as contrasted with
interpretations of ‘wrong living’. As people encounter difference, which disturbs
and threatens to undermine their own right ways, they act to remedy that
disturbance. Social change has implications for religious self-identity and
intentions of right living.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Chittock, EM
Keywords: religious identity, perception, other, plurality, fundamentality, spirituality, intentionality, symbolic interaction
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Copyright 2011 the Author

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