Power games: Using Foucault to shed light on the inherent power dynamics of intercultural Bible study groups. Discussion of a qualitative research project

Charlene van der Walt


In theory the process of intercultural Bible reading should create a
safe space where the voice of the individual can be heard in community with others. It should be
a space where the individual is not only free to speak, but also to have the innate experience
of truly being heard. In this respect the intercultural Bible reading experience becomes a space
that promotes human dignity and has the inherent capacity to facilitate social transformation.
Although these Bible study groups can ideally be a safe space with the potential for social
transformation, the practical reality shows a more complicated dynamic. An important factor that
contributes to the complexity is the underlying power dynamic in the social interaction. To
bring the concept of power in intercultural Bible reading into focus, an empirical study was
conducted. After briefly discussing the scope of the empirical research project, the main focus
of the paper will shift to Michel Foucault’s seminal theory on power. Conversation analysis was
used in the research project as a qualitative data analysis tool to identify the main trends
functioning in the observable power dynamic. Foucault’s theory will be used to shed light on the
inherent power dynamic that functions in the intercultural Bible reading space. The paper will
show that the intercultural Bible reading space cannot escape the functioning of an inherent
power dynamic, but by using Foucault’s theory, a greater understanding can be obtained and
observed trends and patterns can be better understood, predicted and managed.


Power; Michel Foucault; Intercultural Bible reading

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5952/55-3-4-669


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