Being and Becoming: A Photographic Inquiry with Bahá'í Men into Cultures of Peace

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Charles, Egerton, Jr.
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Being and Becoming: A Photographic Inquiry with Bahá’í men into Cultures of Peace is doctoral research that asks how Bahá’í men know, experience and perform their own masculinities as told through their stories and photographs. Within the spiritual context of the Bahá’í sacred tenet of equality of the sexes it sought new knowledge about how participants negotiate and transform their masculinities to facilitate rather than thwart the building of cultures of peace. Using photographic, art-based methods it asked: What is it to be a man today and attempt to construct a new understanding of masculinity? How is this process evident in practice? What are the stories of resistance and/or negotiation with negative cultural norms of masculinity? The study is upheld by three theoretical guy-wires: Bourdieu’s habitus, the Magic Mirror of visual introspection through photography, and Sacred Relationship a core Bahá'í and Indigenous lens into power, equality and accountability to all our relations. The study used PhotoSophia (a new photo-elicitation method), with a bundle of six methodological practices incorporating arts-based visual methods: Interview, PhotoSophia, group study and discussion, inscription, Photovoice and public exhibit. These methods were designed to seek deep reflection into masculine identity formation. The study concluded with a public exhibit of the photographs and inscriptions created by the researcher and participants opening the process to outside input through anonymous questionnaires. Findings include the agency the self-reflective PhotoSophia method itself as illumination into the shadows of masculinity. Primary findings are: willing vulnerability as a form of moral courage; ambiguity as a state of learning and resisting; the need for examples, a standard for a new masculinity; authenticity to be one’s true self in alignment with the Creator, and all our relations, and finally practicing sacred spiritual relationships in shoulder to shoulder service.
Masculinity; Gender; Peace and Conflict; Arts-based research; Bahá'í; cutures of peace; photography