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Reading by the Lines. Proposal for a Narrative Analytical Technique in Empirical Theology

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This paper proposes a method of reading narrative interviews (and other texts). The focus is on the different story lines a narrator uses and weaves together to construct his or her personal narrative. The analysis combines qualitative and quantitative elements to discover the narrative structures. The method of reading is presented and illustrated using one interview from my research project on religious dynamics in male victims of sexual abuse (see appendix for a description). Within the field of empirical theology, the narrative approach is a promising one. As I will try to show, it offers possibilities for a systematic understanding of religious dynamics, while staying close to the religious individuals we study. Far from claiming it to be the only or even the best approach, I nevertheless believe narrative theories and method offer a unique contribution to the field. Before proposing a method of reading, however, I will first highlight some advantages of a narrative approach, outline my version of narrative theory, and discuss some methodological issues.


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