Irish Quaker Identities: Complex Identity in the Religious Society of Friends

In: Brill Research Perspectives in Quaker Studies

Abstract

This work is a sociological study of Quakers, which investigates the impact that sectarianism has had on identity construction within the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland. The research highlights individual Friends’ complex and hybrid cultural, national and theological identities, mirrored by the Society’s corporate identity. This publication focuses specifically on examples of political and theological hybridity. These hybrid identities resulted in tensions that impact on relationships between Friends and the wider organisation. How Friends negotiate and accommodate these diverse identities is explored. It is argued that Irish Quakers prioritise ‘relational unity’ and have developed a distinctive approach to complex identity management. It is asserted that in the two Irish states, ‘Quaker’ represents a meta-identity, which is counter-cultural in its non-sectarianism, although this is more problematic within the organisation. Furthermore, by modelling an alternative, non-sectarian identity, Quakers in Ireland contribute to building capacity for transformation from oppositional, binary identities to more fluid and inclusive ones.

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