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Religion and higher education : making sense of the experience of religious students at secular universities through a Bourdieuian lens

Stevenson, Jacqueline Ann (2012) Religion and higher education : making sense of the experience of religious students at secular universities through a Bourdieuian lens. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Despite a decade of research into student 'difference', religious students have been largely ignored within the widening participation and diversity literature. Unlike considerations of class, race or gender, religion remains, for the most part, unrecognised within institutional policy making, whilst the actual experiences of religious students are omitted from many of the debates around fundamentalism on campus and the role of universities in enhancing community cohesion. This thesis is designed to address this omission and to enhance theoretical and conceptual understandings of the social and academic experiences of religious students in UK secular higher education. Using a Narrative Inquiry approach, fifteen students from Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Sikh backgrounds were interviewed about their social and educational experiences, throughout their first year at a post-1992 University. The students' stories were analysed through the lenses of race, gender, class and religion with Bourdieu's notions of habitus, field, capital, othering and strategy adopted as conceptual tools in order to help better explain and understand their practices and actions. The research provides new insights into the relational nature of religion, the ways in which the interactions between habitus, field and capital inform students' 'otherness' or 'fit',' the levels of self-awareness and reflexivity shown by religious students in their daily lives, and the strategies they undertake to resist being 'othered', namely defiance, charm, avoidance, 'passing', and emotional and physical disengagement. The research highlights the need to bring religion into the fold of recognised social categories, to conceptualise religious 'othering' as exclusionary, and to restructure Bourdieuian theories of habitus and strategy to take into account the individual habitus of religious students. The thesis, therefore, has significant implications not only for widening participation and diversity policy and practice but also the broader ways in which difference is understood and valorised.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law (Leeds) > School of Education (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.582162
Depositing User: Ethos Import
Date Deposited: 29 Aug 2018 11:32
Last Modified: 29 Aug 2018 11:32
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/21132

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