Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Navita Cummings James, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jane Jorgenson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chaim Noy, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Camilla Vasquez, Ph.D.


Group Interaction, Religion, Multimodality, Theology, Ethnography, Communication


This study of social interaction in a small religious group used ethnography of communication as a research method to collect and analyze data from 20 months of fieldwork. As a long-term participant-observer in a women-only interdenominational Bible study, I investigated the group’s patterned ways of speaking, how print and electronic learning materials influenced the practical application of Scripture to daily life, and how the contemporary format for women’s Bible study alters the traditional Bible study experience. Patterned ways of speaking in this setting included group discussions and conversational narratives about religion, motherhood and lack of time. Using affirmations of faith, mentoring advice and troubles talk that included indirect complaints, the women co-constructed new meanings in relational talk. The mediated Bible study experience shifts to women interpretive authority that has been dominated by clergy and men. Text and talk in the workbooks and videos stimulated interpretive conflict and reframing that gave the women intellectual autonomy and recognition for co-constructing knowledge as social worth. Storytelling in the workbooks, videos and local group membered the participants through shared identity, and multimodal learning materials stimulated critical thinking and mediated emotional intimacy in a national and global community. This interpretive community was therefore engaged in what I call women-centered practical theology, and their individual and collective reinterpretation of Scripture is characteristic of the postmodern reformation of Christianity.