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Davy-March-16-Clinical-Ethnography - John Davy Clinical...

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John Davy- Clinical Ethnography Workshop. Do not cite or circulate. 1 Dear participants: over the last two years I have been conducting participant-observation, and a few interviews, with evangelical Christians who are working on their marriages. In part, this is a presentation of two struggling marriages, which at some point I hope to turn into a standing piece such an article. Rather than coming up with a diagnosis or course of treatment, I hope to use this frame to more explicitly conceptualize how Christians treat marital suffering. So this is a sort of heuristic to help me flesh out my model of what’s going on. Some feedback that I would welcome: What are some alternate explanations/hypotheses I might draw? What are some cultural and psychological practices that are being employed to address suffering? What are dynamics (such as transference- countertransference, etc) I ought to consider in the interview situation? What sort of ethnographic information should I seek in the rest of my fieldwork to pursue this? The great “So What?!”—I suspect I have a forest-trees dilemma going on. Families, the family , and “healthy families:” Evangelical Christian kinship and marital discord. Background Conservative Protestant movements have famously sought control of the definition of marriage. Most recently this has been via opposition to same-sex marriage, but also through a more general response against the liberalization of sex norms (Marsden 2006, Smith 2000). As a result, evangelical Christian identity has since become linked to “the family,” the dominant contemporary American style of nuclear family, rooted in a heterosexual companionate marriage (Bendroth 2009, Gallagher and Smith 1999). What does this mean for Christians whose own marriages are experienced as lacking, even distressing? How does this equation of Christianity with present-day American kinship influence a religious tradition long centered on individual conversion and ancient scripture? Evangelical discourses of marriage since the mid- to late-20 th century have served two functions for the community. The first function, the one best known to non-Christians, is that of a public marker of politico-religious identity, as evidenced by social conservative groups such as Focus on the Family. Like fundamentalists, evangelicals seek to be distinct from the larger
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John Davy- Clinical Ethnography Workshop. Do not cite or circulate. 2 culture, to be “in but not of the world.” (cf Ryken 1985) By resisting social liberalism, and endorsing distinctively Christian marriage ideologies, such as male headship, evangelicals index a distinction between themselves and the larger culture (Bendroth 2009. Smith 2000). It is the second main function of evangelical marriage discourse that this paper focuses on 1 : the means to maintain a relational life that is suitably Christian, but that is also acceptable to contemporary believers and potential converts alike. Thus, marriage ideals should not only be
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