Title: The Sexuality-Spirituality Project
Author: Sharon A. Bong
School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia
Setting up the project
From the humble beginnings of a response to a call for conference papers, this has metamorphosed into a larger-scale research project on sexuality and religion, spurred by persons from the GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer) community coming forward to share their narratives of becoming. Ethics clearance was sought from SCERH (Standing Committee on Research Involving Humans) of Monash University and this project is internally funded. [More...]
I was interested to better understand the ways in which GLBTQ persons negotiate the tension between their sexuality and faith within the context of Asia. What began as a small-scale project as a direct response to a call for conference papers, expanded into a larger and longer term research project that commenced in January 2007. My call for interviewees was forwarded to e-networks for GLBTQs through the kind assistance of gay and lesbian friends (as I did not have direct access to these websites) and respondents grew with snowball sampling. The data comprises interview transcripts with 30 persons from the GLTBQ community: 22 based in Malaysia and the remaining eight, in Singapore. Generation of data was in-depth, semi-structured and audio-recorded interviews that were held from January 2007 to January 2008.
Challenges: Sexuality and religion constitute highly sensitive topics in these parts of Asia and the assurance of confidentiality for interviewees is imminent as ethics in researching, particularly on being custodian of the data and reporting the project. [More...]
Working with data
In adherence to my application to SCERH, on the issue of confidentiality, I guaranteed interviewees that I will be personally and singularly transcribing the 30 interviews. This is a daunting task as the average length of an interview is an hour and a half. Face-to-face interviews were held either at my office or at their homes and in one instance, a public area. Interviewees were given the opportunity to choose their own pseudonyms. I practised member checking but most interviewees thankfully chose not to delete even refine what they had said during the interview. As sole researcher, only I have access to the data: voice files, word documents and soft copies.
Correspondence with interviewees continues with my updating them of the process of researching and reporting (i.e. conferences, public forum and publications arising).
I manage the voluminous textual data through the use of ATLAS.ti (version 4.2). Transcripts in Word format are saved as plain text (with text breaks) before imported/ assigned to ATLAS.ti for data analyses. [More...]
I have used ATLAS.ti (version 4.2), a Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) since I was a PhD candidate (1999-2002). Data analysis is more fun and expeditious with CAQDAS. Transcribing the interviews for me (accurately and completely including the awkward pauses) is the first step in data analysis where theorising begins. Each 'primary document' or interview is coded. I use family codes and codes, i.e. spirituality-Christian, ethnicity-Chinese, sexuality-gay. When the list of family codes and codes are compiled within the 'Hermeneutical Unit' (main folder of this research project comprising 30 primary documents), I study it-briefly moving away from the primary documents or transcripts- to see how I can interpret the data and build theory from data as a grounded theorist. Reflexivity is crucial to avoid the pitfall of forcing data to fit theory (existing presuppositions or biases that we invariably bring to our research). [More...]
Reporting the project
The first reporting of the project was at a public forum in Malaysia on sexuality held in conjunction with Independence Day, end August 2008. I had apprehensions about audience receptivity but it materialised as a safe space to share one's research on sensitive topics. Early 'research findings' have been presented at conferences on the Family (Singapore) and Salzburg (Persons and Sexuality). Forthcoming publications, i.e. book chapters and journal articles are pitched at the initiated, i.e. specialists in the field. As a book project, I am considering writing it in a more reader-friendly style for the benefit of the interviewees and public at large. [More...]
List of References