Being & Becoming: A Photographic Inquiry with Bahá’í Men into Cultures of Peace

Being and Becoming: A Photographic Inquiry with Bahá’í Men into Cultures of Peace

Principal Researcher: Chuck Egerton, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice.  St. Paul’s College, University of Manitoba. Email: egertonc@myumanitoba.ca

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This study was approved 28 May 2018 by the Joint-Faculty Research Ethics Board (JFREB) of the University of Manitoba. Contact: humanethics@umanitoba.ca 

Latest News

I successfully defended my dissertation during my oral defense 25 June 2020! It was conducted online via Zoom with about 26 attending from across North American and the UK.
My committee:
Dr. Jessica Senehi
Dr. Lisa Landrum
Dr. Thomas Matyok
External Examiner Dr. Stefanie Kappler (Durham University UK)
Online graduation is projected for October 2020.

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Expanding the Edges of Narrative Inquiry: Research from the Mauro Institute was published in December 2019 by Lexington Books. It includes a chapter I wrote about this study: Being and Becoming: A Photographic Inquiry with Bahá’í Men into Cultures of Peace (The Essence of an Arts-based Doctoral Study).

Poster for my exhibit as Visiting Artist at Guilford College Aug. 21-Oct.25, 2019

unnamed.jpgThe portrait in the poster is of Krishna, a participant in the study from Nepal.

See press release here: Egerton_August2019Guilford_FINAL2_PressRelease

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The Being and Becoming exhibit at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina has been installed. It opened August 21 with an opening reception and talk on Thursday August 22 in Founders Hall and was taken down Oct. 25, 2019

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A spin-off from the exhibit

The above are examples from a Guilford College PhotoSophia workshop on identity with initiate students. The students visited and wrote about the Being and Becoming exhibit on campus and participated in a workshop I conducted on making a PhotoSophia portrait. They worked in pairs, photographing each other with cell phones, picking a photo, printing it, and inscribing it.  Dr. Zulfiya Tursonova had originally invited me to present my exhibit as a visiting artist and worked with three other professors at Guilford College to create the PhotoSophia exercise.

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Other presentations:

April 5, 2020 Presented Being and Becoming via Zoom to the Durham Bahá’í Community, Durham, NC to about 25 attendees.

January 26, 2020 Presented on Being and Becoming for the Soul Cafe at the Efland Bahá’í Center in Orange County, NC for about 25 attendees.

Presentation of Being and Becoming in Professor Jeremy Rinker’s PCS 601 Indigenous Peace Practices class  at University of North Carolina Greensboro, 16 September 2019.

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Presentation of Being and Becoming at Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology 2019 Conference, Queens University Belfast, Northern Ireland, 5 October 2019.

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Included an interactive PhotoSophia Workshop with participants using cell phone cameras.  Over thirty people attended.

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Presentation of Being and Becoming for the Bahá’í Community of Belfast at The Hub,
6 October 2019. Twenty one people attended, mostly youth.

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Presented Being and Becoming for Professor Narayan Khadri’s class at Guilford College 10 October 2019.

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The Original Exhibit at University of Manitoba in September 2018

Below is a photograph of the 2018 University of Manitoba gallery exhibit that used a slightly different title.

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This poster from the exhibit explains the approach, research questions and methods of the study:

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1. Bahá’í International Community. (2015, April 26). Toward a new discourse on religion and gender equality

A reading of this passage from Bahá’í Writings began each interview:

“O SON OF BEING! Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds. ~Bahá’u’lláh (The Hidden Words, Arabic no. 31)

Other passages like the one below were contained in a PhotoSophia Readings compilation:

“O MAN OF TWO VISIONS! Close one eye and open the other. Close one to the world and all that is therein, and open the other to the hallowed beauty of the Beloved.”  ~Bahá’u’lláh (The Hidden Words, Persian no. 12) —    A link to a musical performance.

A poster from the exhibit displays the PhotoSophia portrait of Rayan a participant whose family is originally from Iranian Zoroastrian roots:

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This one week exhibition drew in many observers evoking strong emotion and personal reflection. Over sixty people attended the reception and forty four anonymous questionnaires where collected.

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The Being & Becoming exhibit displayed eleven PhotoSophia portraits. Beneath them are PhotoVoice photographs and captions contributed by participants. The display also included large posters describing the doctoral study (above) and the core quotation from the Bahá’í International Community statement (below):

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(the background images on these posters are details of Tyndall Stone, an ancient stone unique to Manitoba and filled with fossil patterns. The photographs were taken of Tyndall Stone buildings at the University of Manitoba)

“The equality of women and men is not a condition whose effects will be limited to half of the world’s population. Its operationalization will revolutionize all facets of human society—the generation of knowledge and development of intellectual life, the practice of governance, the allocation of material resources and the condition of the family, to name but a few.

Men must come to realize that under current conditions of inequality, the development of their full potential is not possible. It is they who must find the moral courage to convey and model new understandings of masculinity and who must challenge and question the narrow roles that society and the media have assigned to them.

In the final analysis, it is not enough to create space in the current social order for women to play their rightful role. Rather, the goal is for women and men to work shoulder-to-shoulder, each as the helpmate of the other—in the context of family, work, community, and international affairs—to construct a society which allows for the flourishing of all.

Bahá’í International Community. (2015, April 26). Toward a new discourse on religion and gender equality

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Some of the crowd at the gallery reception Sept. 25. 2018 at the Gallery of Student Art University of Manitoba. (photo C. Egerton)

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An example of a PhotoSophia portrait is seen above. It was taken of me by participant Abbas (whose family is originally of Egyptian Coptic background) and later inscribed by me. Displayed below the portrait are PhotoVoice photographs, on the left my father, on the right of my grandmother.

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The new PhotoSophia method asked participants to pose for deeply introspective portrait photographs. These are taken and viewed in real-time on the computer screen. Participants chose one photo from several taken. The chosen photograph was used as a mirror for deep contemplation as they were asked questions about their masculine/feminine qualities in the sacred context of equality. Later that portrait would be printed on large paper with wide borders for participants to “inscribe” with their reflective thoughts and creative expressions/drawings related to gender equality and their “new understanding of masculinity.”  Above is from the PhotoSophia session with Rod Sasaki whose family is originally from Japanese Buddhist origins. See his inscribed portrait below.

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The above are ten inscribed PhotoSophia Portraits © 2018 Chuck Egerton and Abbas Elias, Jean-Michel Molin, Jordan Bighorn, Krishna Sharma, Jim Martin, Payam Tofigh, Miles Thomsen, Corey Bighorn, Rayan Akhtar Khavari, and Rod Sasaki.

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Krishna, a participant from Nepal (originally of Hindu background), generously presented me with a traditional Nepali cap and stole on the last day of the exhibit  (photo by Graham Lea).

Presentations on the study have been made at the Association for Conflict Resolution conference in Pittsburgh, and at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, both in September 2018. It presented at the Association for Bahá’í Studies conference in Ottawa and at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC in August 2019. Guilford College has asked me to be a Visiting Artist and is hosting the second installation of the Being and Becoming exhibit August 21 – October 25.  I presented at the Peace and Conflict Studies in Anthropology Conference at Queens University in Belfast NI October 2019. A chapter I wrote about this has been published by Lexington Books in Narrative Modes of Inquiry: Research from the Mauro Institute (see above).  All interviews were captured on digital video and will eventually become a short documentary film of the experience.

Successfully completed my oral defense on 25 June 2020.

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I’ve received feedback that viewers of the exhibits wanted more information about the Bahá’í Faith:  www.bahai.org