Quaker Studies

The Meaning of Nonviolence: Exploring Nonviolence as a Cultural Resource for Liberal Quaker Subjects

Quaker Studies (2013), 18, (1), 96–114.

Abstract

This article reports on eight in-depth interviews conducted with Liberal Quaker subjects in the Boston area. Subjects spoke about two things: their relationship to the peace and nonviolence elements of Quakerism and their personal, spiritual journeys. Subjects tell stories, perform their social positions, and participate (or talk about participation) in communal ritual. I identify nonviolence as a cultural resource used in these processes (storytelling, social position performance, and ritual) to constitute existential meaning. Existential meaning has three different iterations that correspond to the three respective processes. In storytelling, subjects constitute life purpose. In social position performance, subjects constitute subjectivity (who they really are). In communal ritual, subjects constitute solidarity (where they belong). Nonviolence is not the only cultural resource used to constitute these three forms of existential meaning, and is combined in a myriad number of ways to suit the unique exigencies of each subject’s lived experience. Further, nonviolence retains a limiting influence on subjects’ life choices, and yet it by no means dominates the justification or legitimation of choice in every case.

The Meaning of Nonviolence: Exploring Nonviolence as a Cultural Resource for Liberal Quaker Subjects

Abstract

This article reports on eight in-depth interviews conducted with Liberal Quaker subjects in the Boston area. Subjects spoke about two things: their relationship to the peace and nonviolence elements of Quakerism and their personal, spiritual journeys. Subjects tell stories, perform their social positions, and participate (or talk about participation) in communal ritual. I identify nonviolence as a cultural resource used in these processes (storytelling, social position performance, and ritual) to constitute existential meaning. Existential meaning has three different iterations that correspond to the three respective processes. In storytelling, subjects constitute life purpose. In social position performance, subjects constitute subjectivity (who they really are). In communal ritual, subjects constitute solidarity (where they belong). Nonviolence is not the only cultural resource used to constitute these three forms of existential meaning, and is combined in a myriad number of ways to suit the unique exigencies of each subject’s lived experience. Further, nonviolence retains a limiting influence on subjects’ life choices, and yet it by no means dominates the justification or legitimation of choice in every case.


Details

Author details

Dutton, Zachary T.