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Sustaining meaning and community in troubling times

This book explores the contention that religious and non-religious people have more in common than we might expect. Anna Hickey-Moody argues that everyone has faith in something and faith is what makes us human. People are both brought together and driven apart by their orientations towards religion and secularism. Across England and Australia, Anna Hickey-Moody has collected community stories about ‘what really matters’ and what people have faith in. Her findings will take you on many journeys: voyages of escape on small boats, trips into the future in electric cars and art-making on school grounds. Chapters examine how faith can increase and/or reduce people’s capacity to act, how it can lead to a deferral of pleasure and a faith in things yet to come. They also explore outsider’s worlds: the structures of belonging that sustain social and culturally marginalised people, the kinds of connections fostered through faith and the forms of refusal that faith systems often bring with them. The final chapter examines the other worlds that are created through prayer and creative practice. This book will be of interest to those working in affect studies, religious studies, cultural studies, ethnography, youth studies and sociology.

Anna Hickey-Moody

Colonial power either constitutes or haunts the contexts in which this research takes place. This chapter examines processes of colonisation as forms of governance that reduce people’s capacity to act. It brings a historical discussion of the Hindmarsh Island court case in Australia together with contemporary expressions of racism in London, Sydney and Adelaide. The author argues that racist foundations on which contemporary Australia has been constructed, and on which it still operates, overlay the ethnographic undertaken in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Manchester and London. She examines the history of racism in Australia and contemporary racism in England and Australia, arguing that role of the white anti-racist ally in such spaces is complex and often irreconcilable with the views of the white majority.

in Faith stories
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter explains Anna Hickey-Moody’s research methods, which primarily consist of a multi-sited ethnography, extended with arts-based methods for young research participants. Arts-based methods are an excellent way of communicating complex information. Life experiences are not always able to be expressed in words, especially when research participants speak languages other than English. However, the artworks they create communicate affectively, regardless of language. In her ethnographic work, Hickey-Moody looks for everyday stories and experiences of belonging, faith attachment and ‘what really matters’. These experiences are often expressed through images, words, memory, allegory, anecdote and collaborative exchanges. Her approach is concerned with making space to recognise subjugated, non-mainstream knowledges. Making art with culturally and linguistically diverse children and talking to their parents is an everyday decolonising approach to a feminist, new materialist methodology concerned with the agency of experience, places, matter and things.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter examines stories of outside belonging, which illustrate complex attachments to social groups. Anna Hickey-Moody collects the belonging stories that people have shared, including a diverse range of ways that people find connection and community. For many, community is a complex set of attachments to places, spaces, people and things: attachments that create a sense of belonging. These connections are variously found online, on a soccer field, through marriage or at a mosque or church, and they make people feel like they are part of something bigger. Furthermore, both online and offline communities are central to people’s sense of self, and these communities reflect people’s faith, geography, and sexuality. Migration stories and geographic community play central roles in determining community belonging, often followed by sexuality and career choices. Many participants who belong to a church, for example, do so for the music, storytelling and community, as well as (or even instead of) faith and spirituality. Embedded in this search for and experience of community is often a history of being rejected by other communities. Many research participants are inside and outside communities that are online and offline, intertwined in both. Through the themes of outside belonging and community, this chapter shows that those things to which we are attached, things that make us feel we belong, whether they be people, places, values or things, are of utmost importance in considering what makes a community.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter explores some of the internal systems of connection that constitute joyful assemblages in the lives of research participants. The examples brought together here are closed systems that create safety and provide physical, social, emotional and imaginative ecosystems in which people can flourish. In some respects, these systems of connection need to be read in relation to vulnerability. They provide protection from broader contexts of marginalisation. They offer platforms for visibility, identity and relationality that are built on recognition, community and creativity. Many research participants are part of communities that have historically been marginalised, colonised, de-valued by global cultural processes. This broader context of historical marginalisation means that specific interiorities need to be created and inhabited. Interiorities that offer safe visibility. This chapter offers three of many possible examples. These are council housing estates as sites of class belonging, football as a global community that affirms superdiversity and digital games as creative imaginative platforms and resources for children.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter examines affect and joy as key analytic concepts and themes that run through the data. Firstly, Hickey-Moody explores Spinoza and Deleuze’s writings on affect and joy. She then examines the children’s artworks as materialisations of feeling, communicated through line, shape, form, tone, imagination and matter. The adults’ conversations are similarly drenched with affect. Faith is an affectively charged issue. It is impossible for such intimate matters to be devoid of emotion and connectedness to others, both of which are defining aspects of affect. The connectedness to others which is both part of collaborative art-making and participating in a faith is what also creates joy, as Spinoza explains it. To the extent that acts of connection, empathy and support facilitated through faith practices are real, they bring joy to those who experience them. This chapter explores affect and joy as created through children making artworks and as themes that run through the parents’ focus group discussions and interviews.

in Faith stories
Anna Hickey-Moody

Faith and children’s art are means through which people create and explore the possibilities of other worlds. Both faith and art are interested in how things might be better, both in this world and after our death. Cusak suggests that ‘many stories have the potential to be read as transcendent and uniquely meaningful (as mythology, theology, or other explanatory narrative) by certain individuals and groups’ (2016: 575). This statement brings together old and new faith systems and creative art practices. For example, children often make art about popular cultural stories (video games, fictional characters) and these artworks might simultaneously include comments about the way they wish the world was. For example, they often imagine a world in which we can actually stop climate change, or a world where housing is not a problem. Faith has often served similar functions in the respect that it can be a way of hoping for a better life during trying times. This chapter explores the theme of other worlds, it explains why people maintain their faith and what children often make art about. Anna Hickey-Moody examines the appeal of faith as a way to imagine a better life: both a life after death and a better way of having life now. She then moves on to consider the roles that other worlds play in children’s artwork: both fantasy worlds that children wish were real, and the act of making art as a way of envisaging changes that could be undertaken to make our world a better place.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
Anna Hickey-Moody

Faith sustains everyone in different ways through troubling times. Across diverse places, cultures and ages, children and adults are sustained by very different forms of faith. The implications of this for further research are that faith systems very much need to be seen as part of children’s lives, as well as continuing to be acknowledged as shaping adults’ worlds. Whether they are taught to believe in capitalism, Hinduism or climate change, children are born into belief systems that come to be part of who they are. We all have faith in something. The qualitative empirical research discussed in this book has shown that people are similar in the respect that we are all sustained by faith: faith that our children’s lives will be better than ours; that life after death will be better than it is now; faith in the ‘truth’ of science and the Enlightenment; in the fact that humans will never know all there is to this world; in the hope that our partner will outlive us; in whatever it is we need to believe.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
A new materialist approach / Creideamh
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter develops a new materialist philosophy of faith. Through mobilising affect theory and writing from the new materialisms, Anna Hickey-Moody demonstrates how faith operates as both a form of what Spinoza (1996) calls ‘joy’ and, alternatively, what Lauren Berlant (2011) calls ‘cruel optimism’. Hickey-Moody shows that a change in the capacity to act (affect), such as that which is created through belief, is an experience that unites both secular and religious people. Hickey-Moody outlines the three scales across which faith entanglements and resulting unconscious orientations articulate: macro, meso and micro. On a macro level, global material economies, worldviews, geographies and networks of faith impact substantively upon an individual’s capacity to act, as these assemblages are both political and world-making. On a meso level, the individual and community geographies of belonging that constitute people’s everyday lives demonstrate the complex entanglements of matter and belief that make up lived faith worlds. At a micro level, ‘joy’ is the feeling that is brought about by an increase in our capacity to act and, alternatively, ‘cruel optimism’ is deferring pleasure (for example, sexual pleasure) in the hope that the act of deferral will lead to reward. We are all consciously or unconsciously enmeshed in various systems of faith relations, both formal and informal, religious and secular. This chapter puts forward a unified approach to thinking about the social and individual politics of orientation as expressions of different forms of faith.

in Faith stories
Open Access (free)
Anna Hickey-Moody

This chapter examines six cities in England and Australia and the research sites within them in which Anna Hickey-Moody’s ethnography took place. The chapter orients the reader in relation to her approaches to research and the motivations for undertaking this project.

in Faith stories