Date of Award

January 1997

Degree Type

Dissertation

University or Center

Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

Degree Name

Th.D.

Abstract

This dissertation utilizes theoretical and clinical methodology to investigate the relationship between the process of identity formation/change in African-American women and the experience of 'revelation' facilitated in a group context in which members of the group read a common narrative. The novel, Ugly Ways, written by an African-American woman is the selected narrative used in this study. This study postulates a correlation between narrative shared in a group context, revelation, and identity formation/change. This study proposes and investigates narrative as a conducive structure for meaning making which facilitates African-American women recognizing, investigating and integrating information thereby availing to them, via revelation, new options to "reinterpret or transform" their historical life narratives as well as their present life situations and dilemmas. Revelation, in the context of this study, is defined as an organizing, transforming experience resulting in persons reporting a sense of unity and wholeness in their understanding of self, their relationships to others and to God. Finally, this study suggests that revelation experienced within the process of narrative shared within a group context results in increased reportings of change/growth by study participants. Concurrently this study proposes and investigates the homogenous gender group context for the discussion of the novel as a salient factor for the facilitation of narrative/group context related revelation.

The theoretical expositions of Na'im Akbar's theory of natural psychology, Heinz Kohut's theory of self-development, Archie Smith Jr.'s relational self, H. Richard Niebuhr's theory of revelation, and womanist theology provide the framing upon which the hypothesis of this study and the clinical observations and results generated by this study are perceived and analyzed. Thirty study participants comprised five (5) groups, four (4) experimental and one (1) control. Reported results of this study were generated by (1) observations and interpretations of the researcher and (2) self-assessment accounts composed by each study participant at the completion of the study. Results provided support a correlation between narrative shared within a group context, revelation, and identity formation/change in African-American women. Specifically the study identifies that (1) narrative content that evolves out of or is congruent with the reader's internal history is most conducive for the experience of revelation and (2) the optimal context for the experience of revelation that facilitates identity formation/change for African-American women consists of the discussion of narrative in an all female African-American group. Also identified in the study results are specific potential inhibitors to the experience of revelation as proposed in this study, such as mixed gender groups, group size and an insufficient quantity of scheduled group meetings.

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