Three participatory geographers: reflections on positionality and working with participants in researching religions, spiritualities, and faith

Stephanie Denning, Richard Scriven, Ruth Slatter

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    4 Citations (Scopus)
    56 Downloads (Pure)


    This paper advances the geographies of religion, spirituality and faith’s limited attention to positionality by discussing the critical issues raised when using participatory approaches. Reflecting on three cases of participatory research, we foreground the dynamics of being a researcher with faith when working with participants from faith communities. Advocating participatory approaches as valuable methodologies that should be used more extensively to explore beliefs, faith practices, and social justice, we argue that greater attention needs to be given to the positionality of researchers undertaking this sort of research. Our cases raise three themes for discussion. First, the variety of ways in which faith positionalities influence how research is developed, conducted and concluded. Second, the intersections between our faith and other positionalities and how they shape our roles and relationships with research participants. Third, the fluid and multifaceted nature of faith positionalities and how they are changed, emphasized, and softened through the dynamics and entanglements of fieldwork. In doing so, we reflect on the complexities of being a researcher with faith, argue that faith positionality is a helpful dimension of their research rather than a limitation, and that all cultural, social and historical geographical researchers should reflect on their faith positionality.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)892-910
    Number of pages19
    JournalSocial and Cultural Geography
    Issue number6
    Early online date3 Sept 2020
    Publication statusPublished - 2022

    Bibliographical note

    This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social and Cultural Geography, on 03/09/2020, available online:

    Copyright © and Moral Rights are retained by the author(s) and/ or other copyright owners. A copy can be downloaded for personal non-commercial research or study, without prior permission or charge. This item cannot be reproduced or quoted extensively from without first obtaining permission in writing from the copyright holder(s). The content must not be changed in any way or sold commercially in any format or medium without the formal permission of the copyright holders.


    Economic and Social Research Council


    • Geographies of religion
    • faith
    • participatory geographies
    • positionality
    • researchers with faith
    • spirituality

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geography, Planning and Development
    • Cultural Studies

    Institute themes

    • Faith and Peaceful Relations


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