A brief history
- Anne Philips’ The Faith of Girls (Ashgate) in 2011
- Susan Shooters’ How Survivors of Abuse Relate to God (Ashgate) in 2012
- Fran Porter’s Women and Men After Christendom (Paternoster)
- Dawn Llewellyn’s Reading, Feminism, and Spirituality (Palgrave Macmillan) in 2015.
Aims and objectives
The Symposium exists to further and support qualitative research into the faith lives of women and girls at postgraduate level and upwards, and as a supportive feminist forum for women researchers working in this field.
The Symposium aims to:
- Promote, disseminate and publish qualitative research into the faith lives of women and girls;
- Offer a supportive, encouraging environment in which women researchers may share their work, receive critical feedback on their research, develop practice and confidence in giving papers and writing for publication;
- Model a collaborative, non-competitive, mutually supportive feminist-inspired research environment in which more experienced scholars work alongside newer and younger researchers in a process of mutual encouragement and learning;
- Provide a context in which women researchers may share their experience of the process of research and reflect critically on their research practice, including the integration of research into their personal and professional lives;
- Network with other relevant bodies in academia and the churches so as to promote the above aims and to develop its own profile.
- A collection of papers from the first meeting of the Symposium was published in 2013: The Faith Lives of Women and Girls, edited by Nicola Slee, Fran Porter and Anne Phillips (Ashgate, 2013).
- A second collection of essays on feminist research methodology applied to the study of female faith, Researching Female Faith: Qualitative Research Methods, by the same editors, was published in 2018
- A third collection, Female Faith Practices: Qualitative Research Perspectives was published in 2023
Membership is by invitation only from the Chair of the Symposium on behalf of the planning group. Members may suggest new members who meet the below criteria.
Membership of the Symposium is open to:
- women researchers engaged in some form of qualitative research into the faith lives of women and girls;
- those working at master’s, doctoral and post-doctoral level;
- scholars who are research active, i.e., participants must be engaged in some form of current and ongoing research;
- women scholars working in the UK and Ireland in the first instance, and visiting scholars from abroad.
Whilst men may not be full members of the Symposium, men working in the field may be invited to attend on an occasional basis and to hold supporting membership.
Membership of the Symposium requires commitment on the part of each participant to:
- attend the symposium on a regular basis;
- offer a paper at least once every 3 years;
- offer a workshop session on an occasional basis;
- assist in chairing sessions as requested or required.
Recognising the modest incomes of many members of the Symposium, we currently do not operate a system of subscription. Each meeting of the Symposium is self-funding, and costs are kept to a minimum. We do not wish anyone to be prevented from attendance by financial considerations, and may offer a small discount to those in genuine financial need.
Engagements with Faith
From its origin, Symposium membership has been drawn largely from Christian or post Christian traditions, including members who would not espouse Christian faith but who tend to be most familiar with that tradition. Recently, we have been joined by Muslim and Jewish women researchers, and we are seeking positively to extend the faith engagements represented in our membership.
Members of the Planning Group are:
- Professor Nicola Slee (Chair) is Professorial Research Fellow at the Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and Professor of Feminist Practical Theology at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. She is also Visiting Professor at the University of Chester. She has wide-ranging interests in feminist practical theology, and has published extensively in the areas of women’s faith development, feminist research methodology, feminist liturgy and spirituality, the use of poetry within feminist practical theology and other topics. She is currently working on a collection of essays on feminist practical theology and co-writing a book on feminist liturgy.
- Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz started work as Assistant Librarian of the Israel Antiquities Authority. She became a specialist archaeological translator and editor, and worked with several museums, including the Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem and the Israel Museum. After moving back to the UK, she worked as an academic copyeditor and began to teach courses on Jewish history and classical literature in informal adult education. She completed a PhD in anthropology and Jewish studies, and has since lectured at five universities, including Cambridge and Oxford, and most recently has held a post-doctoral fellowship at the Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester. I continue to teach in the Jewish community and elsewhere, and am involved in interfaith dialogue, having worked as a Scriptural Reasoning facilitator for many years.
- Dr Raana Bokhari is Tutor of English at the University of Central Lancashire. Her published works examine Muslim women and identity, settlement and community building in the UK, and women’s agency. Her research interests are varied, from Muslim women and religious texts, to English literature and postcolonial representations of The Muslim Other, inclusive decolonised curricula, and Shia pilgrimage, women and rituals. She is a trained Muslim Chaplain and is currently active in EDI.
- Revd Dr Kim Wasey is Principal of Open College (Luther King House Partnership for Theological Education) and Associate Priest at St Chrysostom’s, Manchester. Her teaching and research supervision focuses on pastoral, practical and feminist theologies. She researches and has published on young women and the Eucharist and the potential of social media platforms for enabling feminist qualitative research. Having spent many years in combined chaplaincy and parochial ministry prior to teaching, she is committed to theological reflective practice, particularly in ministerial formation and ongoing professional development.
If you are interested in being part of the Symposium, please contact Nicola Slee (email@example.com).
Ethos and working practice
The Symposium usually meets twice a year, for a 2-day residential in the Autumn and for a working day in the Spring.
Our programme largely consists of papers presented and chaired by members, followed by feedback and discussion, and occasional workshops focusing on some practical aspect of research. Papers are often clustered together in ways which enhance the connections between different research projects. Brief acts of worship or meditation are offered as optional spaces of quiet reflection, and crafted in such a way as to be as inclusive as possible. Meals and social time offer opportunities for relaxing and conversation.
Papers may be shorter (20 minutes), which tends to be the norm for masters level work and for ‘work in progress’ papers, or longer (40 minutes) for more substantial research (often at doctoral and postdoctoral level). Workshops of around an hour offer an opportunity for more participatory styles of working.
Many members have given their first papers in the context of the Symposium, and feedback suggests they have found this an affirming and supportive experience. The Symposium Planning Group offers mentorship to new researchers planning their papers, usually through one-to-one email, phone or skype conversation. Written guidelines are available for paper givers, session chairs and workshop facilitators. Feedback to paper givers seeks to combine affirmation, encouragement and support with critical rigour and challenge.
The Symposium is both a public space, open to suitably qualified researchers, and a space valued by participants for its strong ties of friendship, colleagueship and empathy. It is an academic space whose primary function is to nurture and disseminate research, but it is also a space in which members’ personal lives, faith commitments and experience have a valued place within a holistic feminist ethos. We seek not only to research about women’s faith lives, but to model an open, respectful, committed and critically engaged spirituality and ethics. Our meetings aim to create a safe and secure holding environment in which we are free to challenge and engage each other in critical discourse.
What participants say
‘The Symposium has played a vital part in helping me grow in confidence as a researcher and academic, and in finding my `voice’. The atmosphere at the Symposium is collaborative and supportive where newer researchers are nurtured and encouraged, and has played a significant role in my own learning and growing as a PhD student.’
‘As an independent researcher only lately come to academia, the Symposium offers a supportive and sympathetic environment. Not many other ‘spaces’ are available to one who has no institutional affiliation and fairly limited access to the range of academic materials, which are the working tools of any research project.’
‘Receiving professional – and uncompetitive – feedback from peers, and lots of good advice from experienced members who have already published work, encouraged me to have a go myself. As a direct result, I have four academic publications out there already, and I am now concentrating on writing as my main occupation.’
‘The Symposium is a brilliant place of learning, care and compassion. We eat together, laugh together, cry together, pray together. We share theologically and inclusively the serious and sometimes painful aspects of the faith lives of women and girls, and others. There is a great deal of reflexive thinking and care, we know we are often walking on sacred ground as we discuss each research study; and those who participated, whilst not physically present, can sometimes feel very close.’
‘Attending the Symposium is a way of keeping in touch with a breadth of qualitative research on women’s faith lives, including a variety of disciplines and methodologies. It is an opportunity to meet other researchers and its attention to process allows us to explore together particular challenges or emerging dynamics that we encounter in our work.’
‘Meeting on an equal footing, those of us a little more experienced in research and writing enjoy learning from newer conversation partners, while also sharing constructively in critical reflection as we work together to develop research skills. At each Symposium, I delight at the creativity seen in experimental methodologies contributors are checking out in the safe space we offer, and never fail to be impressed by members’ commitment to the research process, often in difficult circumstances. The welcome given to new members is genuine, and the celebration of completed theses and published works long struggled over is colourful – and loud!’