Signs and Graces: Remembering Religion in Childhood in Southern Dunedin, 1920-1950
This thesis examines the meanings of everyday experiences of religion for children in southern Dunedin, in the period 1920-1950. As such, it joins the growing array of voices calling for greater investigation of religion in New Zealand’s past, particularly in the influential and significant period of childhood. In keeping with international trends, it looks not only at official institutional religion, but takes a broad view towards ‘lived religion’ through evidence relating to everyday life and popular culture. This research draws on extensive original oral history interviews as a key methodology to explore attitudes, emotions and beliefs from the ‘bottom up’. This shifts the focus from the formal outward signs of official religion to understanding the nature and significance of inward spiritual graces. This study is organised into five sections, which cover the different cultural ‘worlds’ in which children lived religion in southern Dunedin. By taking an explicitly interdisciplinary approach, it draws together different threads to make connections not previously made in histories of New Zealand, in particular between religion, music, literature, prayer, death, and childhood. The everyday spaces in which children ‘lived’ religion in southern Dunedin span both ‘public’ and ‘private’, and ‘sacred’ and ‘secular’ places, including at home, school, clubs, civic events, cemeteries, concert halls and streets. Throughout, this study shows how children exerted their own individual agency and choice regarding their religious experiences, and the meanings thereof. This research demonstrates that for many children in southern Dunedin in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, cultural Christianity was a significant part of the fabric of everyday life, contributing to the formation of these children’s sense of identity as they grew up, and continuing to influence their lives in diverse and complicated ways through their adult years.
Advisor: Ballantyne, Tony; Stenhouse, John; Kerin, Rani; Shogimen, Takashi; Ward, Vanessa
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History and Art History
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; oral history; religious history; religion; childhood; children; child; New Zealand history; South Dunedin; Southern Dunedin; memories; memory; Dunedin; Christianity; Christian; cultural Christianity; golden-rule; cultural history; social history; music; reading; literature; children's literature; children's reading; death; prayer; pray; children's agency; children's perceptions of death; singing; lived religion; popular culture; everyday life; official religion; popular religion; interviews; bottom-up; bottom-up history; interdisciplinary history; interdisciplinarity; formal outward signs; inward spiritual graces; Sunday school; church; Otago
Research Type: Thesis