Demanding Difference: Investigating Epistemic Diversity at Sojourners

TriCollege Digital Repository

Title: Demanding Difference: Investigating Epistemic Diversity at Sojourners
Author: Curtis, Cara
Advisor: Johnson, Terrence L.
Department: Haverford College. Dept. of Religion
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: This thesis is a case study in human interaction with ideological and epistemic difference. It began with a question: how feasible is it to incorporate diverse and competing ideologies or worldviews into the work of one small, non-profit organization? To begin to form an answer, I look to the case of Sojourners, a Christian media and advocacy organization that works to advance social justice causes of national and global concern. My primary method of research was ethnography, and I present my findings and analysis, in service to my central question, in five main chapters. After framing my question in relation to Sojourners and giving a thorough historical and theological background, I devote three chapters purely to presenting and analyzing my research. I argue first that Sojourners’s unique combination of theological and pragmatic characteristics places them in perfect position to engage with ideologies of difference; second, I look to three controversial, “hot button” issues to explore what this engagement concretely looks like. Third, I use the special case of racial diversity to meditate on the limits of epistemic engagement within one organization. Ultimately I argue that epistemic diversity is present in Sojourners’s work—but that this diversity inherently implies struggle and strife. However, this paper also gives insight into why incorporating epistemic diversity may be wise and even necessary in an increasingly interconnected world, even as it remains a challenge. Using Sen and Nussbaum’s capability approach to re-orient the meaning of poverty, I argue that the type of multiepistemic work that Sojourners endeavors to do is actually corrective of an imaginative and creative poverty that develops when disparate epistemic frameworks do not talk to one another. With full acknowledgment of its difficulty, then, I argue that epistemic difference literally enriches efforts to solve many complex, broadly meaningful contemporary problems. The ultimate conclusion is not that engaging competing worldviews is painless, easy, or even universally appropriate. Rather, in many contemporary debates, epistemic diversity is worth the struggle it inevitably implies.
Subject: Social epistemology
Subject: Ideology -- Religious aspects
Subject: Cultural pluralism
Subject: Sojourners magazine
Terms of Use:
Permanent URL:

Files in this item

Files Description Size Format
2010CurtisC_thesis.pdf Complete Thesis (Haverford users only) 1.020Mb PDF
2010CurtisC_release.pdf **Archive Staff Only** 37.44Kb PDF


Curtis, Cara. "Demanding Difference: Investigating Epistemic Diversity at Sojourners". 2010. Available electronically from

This item appears in the following Collection(s) Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as


Advanced Search


My Account