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Religious institutions, social change, symbols and same-sex marriage


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Boland, JA ORCID: 0000-0001-6512-3712 2020 , 'Religious institutions, social change, symbols and same-sex marriage', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Previous studies of religious institutions, social change and pluralism have adhered to the conventional sociological dichotomy between the individual and structure. In studies involving LGBTIQ+ issues and religious organisations, primarily from the United States, the celebration of individual agency over structural determinants predominates. This literature also suggests religious institutions be seen as structurally inert, unresponsive or deliberately reactionary when participating in public debates about controversial social changes. This thesis attempts to overcome this image by arguing that contemporary religious institutions dialogically mediate social change through “condensing symbols”. Through church magazines, secular newspapers, public letters and historical documents, institutional elites propagate a discursive understanding of how organisations adapt to change. The thesis’ three case studies provide examples of how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Anglican Archdiocese of Sydney and the liberal Religious Society of Friends have engaged the public through controversial debates, such as same-sex marriage, to discursively negotiate, respond and resist pluralism. How an institution develops and deploys “condensing symbols” allows us to tackle the broader sociological issue of how religious institutions structurally adapt, through these symbolic mediators, to change.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Boland, JA
Keywords: institutional change, symbols, social change, same-sex marriage
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Copyright 2019 the author

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