This thesis examines the issue of internal conflict in the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) through an analysis of the author’s fieldwork findings. It uses a conceptual framework that proposes that individual identity is culturally constructed by its social setting – within any conflict, the dispositions of those involved are bounded by culturally sanctioned parameters. It argues that the Quaker community influences its members’ sense of identity by constructing a context that directs thought, awareness and behaviour through narratives, metaphors and symbols. The different layers of meetings – the formal settings in which socialisation takes place – are integrated in such a way as to provide a unique, culturally informed context, where the possession of what is regarded as a ‘Quakerly’ disposition is valorised. The thesis contends that the ethos of tolerance for diverse individual spiritualities, and the tenet that every individual contains an ‘Inner Light’, conflict with the belief that voicing disagreement represents an assertion of individuality that is ‘unQuakerly’ and damaging to the unified community. This leads to structural tensions – illustrated by the number of contradictions that surface within the community. The attempt to resolve these, using the forms of socialisation that create them, produces a unique form of conflict management.

Key themes:
A repertoire of expected behaviours and internalised values establishes a common Quaker identity, which frames the way internal conflict is defined, negotiated and resolved
Metaphors and concepts are employed to both constrain behaviour and manage conflict

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