CHAPTER 3: Research methodology used in this study
This chapter describes the research process used in this study. Topics that are discussed under this heading include the research site, entrée, participants, data collection, text creation, data analysis, the timeline, a brief description of critical hermeneutic theory, and the background of the researcher. Each of these topics is presented in accordance with the principles of conversation and narrative based research as described in Herda (1999:85-‐138). The ontological orientation of this research is well stated by Ricoeur when he writes:
So understanding is not concerned with grasping a fact but with apprehending a possibility of being. We must not lose sight of the point when we draw the methodological consequences of this analysis: to understand a text, we shall say, is not to find a lifeless sense which is contained therein, but to unfold the possibility of being indicated by the text (1981:56).
The research process used in this study is informed by the principles contained in this passage.
The critical hermeneutic orientation to participatory inquiry involves the fixing of a discourse event through transcription and then analyzing that text as narrative.
Thus the research process is one of conversations that are recorded, transcribed, and then analyzed using critical hermeneutic theory. The procedures followed in this study are described below.
Research Site and participants
The primary research site is the Oromia and Southern Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia.
Participants include, converted Muslims (MBB’s), Oromo community leaders, mission leaders and workers involved in Muslim Outreach projects and church planting among Ethiopian Muslim people groups. Primary participants are Muslim Background Believers (MBB’s). Some Muslim informants were contacted and some discussion was accomplished but these participants were unwilling to be recorded so that only notes could be taken during those conversation and then immediately following. Leaders of evangelistic and church planting groups, national and international, working among the Ethiopian Muslims were also included in the research process but in two cases those participants were not willing to be recorded or their names used because of security concerns. In these cases written notes were taken during the conversation and summaries/transcripts made immediately after the discussion was completed.
Twenty-‐four conversation partners were recorded and transcribed, four conversations were conducted that could not be recorded and for which notes were taken and transcribed for a total of 28 subjects in this research. Five of the participants were women and the rest men ranging from early twenties to seventies in age. In some cases written transcriptions or personal knowledge of the life stories of the participants were available from earlier discussions or personal knowledge.
Below is a chart of those participants who were recorded and their conversations transcribed and analyzed.
Entrée to research participants and languages used
All conversations were voluntary and were solicited through friends or acquaintances. They were told I was researching the topic of Muslims converting to Christianity and would like to talk to them for my research. When we began to talk I explained about the research being done, its purpose and methodology and asked their permission to record the conversation. The recorded conversations were from this group. Four persons were unwilling to be recorded and one did not want his name used but these were willing to talk. Their request has been honored. I took notes during our conversation and then reviewed and finalized those notes immediately after. Conversations were conducted mainly in Amharic with an interpreter. The recording included the Amharic and English, which was all transcribed and then checked for accuracy. In one case the conversation was conducted in English and in one afan Oromo (Oromo language) and interpreted. I had no transcriber who could speak Oromo and thus that conversation transcript only includes the English portion, however the accuracy of the translation was verified by another qualified afan Oromo speaker.
Data collection and text creation
Data collection for this study involved a review of relevant literature, a personal journal, recorded conversations, document analysis, and observation. Literature was reviewed and has provided an important source of data and context concerning Ethiopian Muslims, their society, history, culture, and missiological issues of contextualization. Much of the research process was recorded in a personal journal, which is one of the sources of data for this study. Procedures for the creation and analysis of texts are described below.
Conversations were undertaken on an informal basis. Each of these conversations was tape recorded (with the exception of the four mentioned above) and transcribed with the permission of the research participant. Once each transcript was verified for accuracy of content and interpretation of language it was made a part of the research data for this study. Conversation transcripts are then considered as texts for analysis using the principles described below. In one case a recorded follow-‐up conversation was undertaken in order to more deeply explore issues raised during the first conversation. In a few cases the recorded conversation was a part of an ongoing series of interactions and so the other non-‐recorded and informal conversations provide a personal context and in a few cases clarification of some issues. Reflection on any unrecorded conversations and interactions were normally included in my personal journal.
Analysis of data in the participatory hermeneutical approach to research is a creative and imaginative act because the researcher is appropriating a proposed world disclosed through the text. As the researcher is exposed to the text they are changed in such a manner that they see the world differently because they themselves have become a different person through the research process. Gadamer (1989) refers to a “fusion of horizons” that is possible through conversation. What is meant by this phrase is that each conversation partner has a horizon, that limit of knowledge, experience, and understanding that is possessed at the moment. That horizon is understood ontologically in terms of the being-‐in-‐the-‐world of the person. Through conversation there is the possibility of understanding presented by which a person may be able to transcend their own horizon and thus be able to “see” the world differently and actually become a different person with a new horizon of being (Gadamer, 1989:302-‐307). Therefore, the problematic being explored is seen differently as new and creative solutions present themselves. The following sequence will be followed for data analysis as presented in Herda (1999:98-‐99).
1) Conversation partners were selected and contacted by phone, email, or in person to set up a time for recording a conversation together. In formal conversations a letter was provided prior to the time set for meeting which described the research to be conducted and the type of conversation desired. During the meeting our conversation was recorded with the permission of the research participant.
2) The taped conversations were then transcribed. The transcription process was overseen by the researcher personally so that all nuances of gesture and tone of voice were brought to bear on the meaning of the conversation partners to the best of the researcher’s ability. The transcriptions process was undertaken as soon as practical after the conversation was taped.
3) The transcripts were then examined, pulling out significant statements, developing themes and placing them within categories. Categories were refined as necessary throughout the research process.
4) Themes were substantiated with quotes from the transcripts as well as from the researcher’s notes and log. In using participants’ quotes, every effort has been made to remain as close as possible to the original language even if it is a second language to the participants or a translation. In this case, English is a second or perhaps third language to most of the Ethiopian participants and some are comfortable and proficient in its use as English which is the medium of all university level training in Ethiopia. Conversations conducted in Amharic or Oromifa were transcribed and translated by both the interpreter used during the recording and checked by others when transcribed. One exception is the conversation recorded in Oromifa for which only the English translation was transcribed. Minimal editing was done on conversation transcripts and then only for the purpose of clarity of meaning as understood during the dynamics of the conversation itself or from other context known to the researcher. All conversations have challenges of understanding and those being conducted through an interpreter especially so, therefore it is important to acknowledge this limitation.
5) Themes were examined in light of the theoretical framework and constructs described and developed during this study. Additional data will be introduced from the literature sources discussed in the review thus allowing for the participation of the voices from the literature to be included in the overall conversation of the topic at hand.
6) Transcriptions were sent to the research participant when practical in order to facilitate both correction and accuracy but also to provide opportunity for on-‐ going discussion regarding the issues at hand.
7) In developing the text, groupings of themes and sub-‐themes were considered within each category in light of the theoretical framework and constructs developed to guide this study. Often themes fit into more than one category, so the discussion indicates this and develops various dimensions of the theme or grouping of themes.
8) Discussion of the research problem is presented in a two-‐part analysis. The primary analysis, chapter five, gives focus to the themes and content of the conversation as recorded and transcribed. The secondary analysis, chapter six, addresses the data at a theoretical level thus allowing for the introduction of theoretical constructs as they apply to the research categories.
9) In the research process, implications for the written discussion were explored that provide new insights and new direction for examination of the issue under investigation.
10) Analysis and identification of those aspects of this research that merit further study have been made a part of the research process or noted as possibilities for future research projects.
11) Finally, the implications of the research for both the researcher and participants has been made a part of the research process by examining opportunities for learning learning and fusion of horizons that has taken place during the research process.
The research process described here has been followed as much as possible with some variation arising from language and translation issues, settings of conversations and time availability of the participants.
This field research was conducted over approximately a two year time frame during 2011-‐2012. About half of the conversations were conducted and recorded in 2011 after which they were transcribed and evaluated. The other half of the conversations were conducted in 2012. Ongoing conversations with some of the participants as well as others involved in the field have continued up until the final writing and editing was completed.
Critical hermeneutic theory: a brief description
The theoretical foundation for this study is drawn from critical hermeneutic theory. Significant authors are Heidegger, Ricoeur, Kearney and Habermas. Gadamer is discussed briefly to the extent that his work intersects with that of the other theorists. Critical hermeneutic theory is closely connected to the theory of text and interpretation developed by Ricoeur. He writes, “to interpret is to explicate the type of being-‐in-‐the-‐ world unfolded in front of the text (1991:86; 1981:93). In other words, the process of interpretation, for Ricoeur is not getting at motives and thought patterns behind the text, but rather appropriating the text in such a manner that the interpreter becomes a different person whose actions are shaped by a new way of understanding what it means to be in the world in light of the text. Production and analysis of text is the critical hermeneutic methodology of study; interpretation of texts is guided by an awareness of the world disclosed in front of the text. Ricoeur continues, “for what must be interpreted in a text is a proposed world that I could inhabit and wherein I could project one of my ownmost possibilities. That is what I call the world of the text, the world proper to this unique text” (1991:86). Each theory or philosophy examined will provide a window through which the data can be viewed in such a manner as to disclose the world in front of the text and thus open the possibility of understanding and the opening of new worlds.
In analyzing the data with respect to the research category of community, Heidegger’s discussion of being-‐with, is most helpful. He writes, “The world of Da-‐sein is a with-‐world [Mitwelt]. Being-‐in is being-‐with Others” (1965:155). Da-‐sein is usually translated as “being-‐in-‐the-‐world.” Therefore, in Heidegger’s thought, Da-‐sein is understood in relationship to others who are also with us in the world. One cannot fulfill one’s ownmost possibility of being except as he or she is in community with others because the essence of Da-‐sein is being-‐with. Critical hermeneutics is built upon the priority of the issue of ontology over epistemology. Therefore, being is the primary issue more so than knowing. Da-‐sein is always anticipating the future and the coming into being of one’s ownmost possibilities. Heidegger (1962:373) writes:
By the term ‘futural’, we do not here have in view a “now” which has not yet become ‘actual’ and which sometime will be for the first time. We have in view the coming [Kunft] in which Dasein, in its ownmost potentiality-‐ for-‐being, comes towards itself. Anticipation makes Dasein authentically futural, and in such a way that the anticipation itself is possible only in so far as Dasein, as being, is always coming towards itself – that is to say, in so far as it is futural in its Being in general.
This anticipation of one’s ownmost potentiality-‐of-‐being allows for a space into which imagination can step to create a new possible future into which one might project themselves. However, the notion of being-‐with informs one that such a future cannot be inhabited alone but must be inhabited along with others also. Heidegger (1962:154) explains:
By ‘Others’ we do not mean everyone else but me – those over against whom the “I” stands out. They are rather those from whom, for the most part, one does not distinguish oneself – those among whom one is too.
This Being-‐there-‐too [Auch-‐da-‐sein] with them does not have the ontological character of a Being-‐present-‐at-‐hand-‐along-‐‘with’ them within a world. This ‘with’ is something of the character of Dasein; the ‘too’ means a sameness of Being as circumspectively concernful Being-‐in-‐the-‐ world.
Thus, being-‐with things is not the same as being-‐with people who are those who have the same sort of being as myself and toward whom I owe a duty of care. Thus in Heidegger’s philosophy of Being and Time there is an ethical quality to being-‐in-‐the-‐ world. Ricoeur builds upon many of Heidegger’s ideas as he develops his theory of narrative identity.
Ricoeur (1992) develops his theory of identity based upon two Latin words for self, idem and ipse. Idem is that aspect of identity that stays the same over time. He refers to these qualities as character. He writes, “by ‘character’ I understand the set of distinctive marks which permit the reidentification of a human individual as being the same” (1992:119). Ipse is that aspect of identity that allows for change over time. A person is the same when a baby, a child, an adult and an elderly person, yet has significantly changed over time. The combining of these two aspects of identity requires the pulling together of the concordant and the discordant, sameness and difference within the same life. This pulling together is accomplished most naturally through narrative. Ricoeur writes, “because of the concordant-‐discordant synthesis, the contingency of the event contributes to the necessity, retroactive so to speak, of the history of a life, to which is equated the identity of the character” (1992:147). Borrowing from Aristotle’s Poetics, Ricoeur uses the term, “emplotment” to describe the bringing together of the discordant and the concordant (1984:66). Its primary significance for this study is that it allows for a “grasping together” of the events of a life. Self-‐understanding is most naturally expressed in terms of the story or narrative of a life. An individual life fits into the story of a community and the present fits into the larger narrative of the history of a people. Who a person is and how they understand themselves has everything to do with the possibilities for their future. Such a narrative that forms an identity amounts to “…the proposing of a world that I might inhabit and into which I might project my ownmost powers” (Ricoeur 1984:81). Thus identity must incorporate a past, present and an anticipated future. Herda comments on this aspect of Ricoeur’s theory when she writes, “the self is also a dialectic that gives us a character that remains the same throughout transitions in our life and also allows us to create a newness that houses the future” (Herda 1997:37).
This conception (incorporating an anticipated future into identity) will be important to this study of conversion and identity change in Ethiopia. In subsequent chapters of this study the significance of an anticipated future as being an integral part of identity, identity change and Christian discipleship will be explored. The future orientation of human life and experience is not normally addressed in theories of identity where the emphasis is on history, culture and common experience that “make us who we are.” Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity allows for a productive inclusion of anticipation as an aspect of the self as well as connecting with the Christian concepts of faith and trust.
This notion of the proposing of a world that might be inhabited is one of the most important contributions made by Ricoeur. His theory brings forward the temporal dimension of human experience, Ricoeur (1999b:14) writes:
No historical period ever exhausted its own dreams. What happened in the past is only a partial realization of what had been projected. . .The promise of an historical event is always more than was actually realized. And so we have to find the future of the past, the unfulfilled potential of the past.
Thus the narrative that expresses a person’s or community’s identity draws upon the past but also proposes a future. Therefore, narrative theory when applied to identity allows for the creation of a new future, not limited by the characteristics of the present or the past. When Ricoeur writes, “there is more in the past than what happened. . .we have to find the future of the past, the unfulfilled potential of the past,” he creates a possibility for traditions, culture and social institutions to find new expression through imaginative adaptation. Thus Ricoeur combines the past, present and future into a whole in his theory of narrative identity.
Narrative identity also forms the lynch pin between Ricoeur’s theory of action and his ethical theory. In Oneself as Another narrative identity is the transition point as he moves toward a theory of ethical responsibility. Ricoeur (1992:114) writes:
Narrative theory finds one of its major justifications in the role it plays as a middle ground between the descriptive viewpoint on action, to which we have confined ourselves until now, and the prescriptive viewpoint which will prevail in the studies that follow.
Because narrative theory allows one to consider their life as a whole and both idem and ipse aspects are included through the mediation of the plot of the narrative, there is the possibility of ethical content. As such, a person becomes responsible for their actions and for the future that is created through them. Ricoeur (1999a:8) explains:
I would like to add a third component in explication of this difficulty of preserving one’s identity through time, and of preserving one’s selfhood in the face of the other, and that is the violence which is a permanent component of human relationship and interactions. Let us recall that most events to do with the founding of any community are acts of violence. So we could say that collective identity is rooted in founding events which are violent events. In a sense, collective memory is a kind of storage of such violent blows, wounds and scars.
The above quotation is taken from his discussion of memory and forgetting in which he proposes that there is an ethical responsibility at times to remember so as not to allow the memory of those who have suffered to be forgotten, and at other times a duty to forget in order that a new future can be forged which is not a replay of the tragedies of the past. These components come together in Ricoeur’s identity theory wherein we are challenged to appropriate, and therefore become responsible for, the story that is our identity.
Kearney, a student of Ricoeur, has extended Ricoeur’s work on story, narrative, and imagination. Kearney (2002:132) writes:
This power of mimetic re-‐creation sustains a connection between fiction and life while also acknowledging their difference. Life can be properly understood only by being retold mimetically through stories. But the act of mimesis which enables us to pass from life to life-‐story introduces a ‘gap’ (however minimal) between living and recounting. Life is lived, as Ricoeur reminds us, while stories are told.
The telling of one’s story introduces a “gap” or a space between the events told and the self, into this gap mimetic activity is introduced. Within this space one finds space for reflection, and as Ricoeur reminds us, it is always possible to “tell it otherwise” (1999a:9). Every history includes some facts and not others, prioritizes one viewpoint over another, and thus tells its story in only one manner among many alternatives. When the history of Ethiopia is examined as the combination of the stories of its many different people groups, that story becomes both more full and quite different. Ethnic groups such as the Oromo who have embraced Islam and in some cases rejected Christianity in favor of traditional religious beliefs, have done so in reaction to their experience of a violent and oppressive past. As Christians and missiologists it is our responsibility to explore ways to open up new possibilities for a future where the wounds of the past can be healed and a new future can be embraced that is no longer defined by past violence nor does it produce future violence. By reframing the story of the past, the Ethiopian people can open up new possibilities for the future. This “telling otherwise” allows for the same events of history to become the foundation for new and hope filled futures.
Kearney (1998:149) explores the role of imagination in the creation of new possible worlds when he writes:
To account for this phenomenon of ontological novelty, Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of imagination looks beyond the first-‐order reference of empirical reality – which ordinary language discourse normally entails – to a second-‐order reference of possible worlds.
The role of imagination in the creation of new possible worlds to be inhabited, introduces the possibility of a new identity through the narrative thus created. Furthermore it allows for ethical examination of actions, both of the past and those yet in the future. Kearney (1998:255) summarizes this ethical dimension when he writes:
The ethical potential of narrative imagination may be summarized under three main headings: (1) the testimonial capacity to bear witness to a forgotten past; (2) the empathic capacity to identify with those different to us (victims and exemplars alike); and (3) the critical-‐utopian capacity to challenge official stories with unofficial or dissenting ones which open up alternative ways of being.
These three aspects of the ethical dimension of narrative imagination create space in which the stories of those on the periphery, who have been excluded from the national, dominant narrative, can be reintroduced and thus allow for the possibility of healing, reconciliation and thus communication. When space is introduced within which a person or community is allowed to tell their yet unheard story, an opportunity for healing is created. Through such processes those who have been excluded can begin the journey toward inclusion. If no space is provided in which such stories can be told and the healing process is thus not begun, Ethiopia will become more and more ethnically fragmented and the potential for violence will grow.
As the story of those who have been excluded becomes a part of the public sphere a new narrative can begin to be formed into which these new stories and their implications could be introduced. Kearney (1999:26) writes:
Moreover, it is precisely because stories proceed from stories in this manner that historical communities are ultimately responsible for the formation and reformation of their own identities. One cannot remain constant over the passage of historical time – and therefore remain faithful to one’s promises and covenants – unless one has some minimal remembrance of where one comes from, of how one came to be what one is.
Thus Kearney extends Ricoeur’s theory of narrative identity while developing the theme of imagination.
As Christians, the term imagination is seldom part of the standard theological vocabulary. Words such as faith and hope are much preferred to “imagination” because it sounds so unreal and tentative. However, imagination can be viewed as the connection between a metaphor and its meaning, or a parable and its interpretation, or between a story in the Jewish scriptures and a New Testament truth. Richard Hays writes:
In 1 Corinthians we find Paul calling his readers and hearers to a conversion of the imagination. He was calling Gentiles to understand their identity anew in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ – a gospel message comprehensible only in relation to the larger narrative of God’s dealing with Israel (2005:5).
Imagination can also be understood as the connecting point between an old self and a new self which is exactly the meaning of conversion as will be explored in chapter four.