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When Religion Matters: A Practical Theological Engagement of Liberian Women's Narratives and Practices of Healing Post-Conflict

Hardison-Moody, Anne (2012)
Dissertation (276 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Lartey, Emmanuel Y
Committee Members: Bounds, Elizabeth M ; Farley, Wendy ; Scully, Pamela F
Research Fields: Theology
Keywords: religion; healing; Liberia
Program: Laney Graduate School, Religion (Person, Community and Religious Practices)
Permanent url:


When Religion Matters: A Practical Theological Engagement of Liberian Women's
Narratives and Practices of Healing Post-Conflict
This dissertation argues that religion matters for women who seek out healing in light of
experiences of violence they endured during the Liberian Civil War. I look to women's
narratives and faith practices to argue for a theological understanding of healing as a
process that occurs in and through the course of women's lives.
Drawing on feminist post-conflict literature, this dissertation makes a case for including
religion as a vital source for women's healing work. It also offers a background and
context of the Liberian Civil War, using women's narratives as the backdrop. Using
methods drawn from both feminist pastoral care and feminist ethnography, I cultivate a
research method that is attentive to the ways religion emerges in and through the course
of women's daily lives. As such, I examine Liberian women's narratives, drawing on
seven interviews, in which God's presence in the moment of hardship provides a way of
envisioning healing out of situations of grave hardship and trauma. I also look to
Liberian women's faith practices - namely worship, parenting, and prayer - to argue that
healing emerges for women as much in the practices they carry out as in the stories they
tell about what they have endured. Finally, I develop a practical theological response to
the traumas faced by the women with whom I worked, a women's empowerment group.
Drawing on each of these instances of narrative and practice, the dissertation argues for
an understanding of healing that is attentive to the complex ways that religion matters in
women's lives - through the stories they tell, the practices they adopt, and the families
and communities that they form. This necessitates, I argue, a participatory stance by
researchers and illuminates the vital place for practical theologians in women's human
rights conversations.

Table of Contents


Beyond Institutional Religion: Studying Religion and Health 2
Why Liberia? 5
Chapter Structure 8

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women: Between Feminist Theory and Theology 15
When Religion Matters: Thesis and Background 19
The Liberian Civil War: Women's Experiences 21
Complicating the Ways We Talk about Women and Conflict 33
A Human Rights Approach 37
Beyond Formal Structures: The Importance of the Everyday 44
Where is Religion? 46
Guiding Assumptions 53

Research Methods 63
Interview Participants 67
Research Methods 71
Working with Communities Affected by Violence 73
Feminist Pastoral Care: Hearing Stories of Violence 74
Coming to Voice 76
Weaving Counternarratives 80
Feminist Ethnography and the Limits of Narrative 84
Religion and the Vernacular 85
Hearing Beyond Words 90
Reflexivity in Research 93
Bridging Care and Research: Research in Practice 98

Telling the Stories 100
Marie's Story 100
Pastor Meah's Story 106
Laura's Story 112
Evelyn's Story 117
Ruth's Story 119
Ella's Story 122
Joyce's Story 125
On Telling Stories 127


application/pdf Dissertation/Thesis 276 pages (998.5 KB) [Access copy of Dissertation/Thesis]
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