Independent Minor in Quaker Studies

While at Haverford College, I developed an independent minor in Quaker Studies. The following is an adaptation of my Petition for an Independent Minor, which was approved by the College in November, 2011.

I see this independent minor in Quaker Studies as being divided into two thematic parts: 1) a specific and focused study of Quaker religious belief, testimonies, and practices, and 2) a broader study of how Quakers and non-Quakers use personal beliefs as catalysts for social action with the aim of improving societal conditions. These two parts are inherently interwoven and interconnected. My aim is to explore the innate relationships between these two themes.

The foundations for this Quaker Studies minor can be gained from courses in Political Science, Sociology/Anthropology, History, and Religion. Select courses within these disciplines will provide me with the theoretical and empirical frameworks for understanding individual and collective responses to oppression. Quakerism itself was born in the mid-1600s, admist intense persecution by the Church of England and the State. It is from these roots that Quakers have worked continuously for the betterment of society. I wish to develop a deep knowledge of the connection between Quaker history and practice, and resistance to societal inequities.

List of Courses in the Minor:

  • HC POLS123: Difference and Discrimination in American Politics
  • HC SOCH237: Social Movements and Civil Rights in the US
  • HC RELG240: History and Principles of Quakerism
  • HC ICPR244: Quaker Social Witness
  • SC PEAC071: Research Seminar: Strategies of Nonviolent Struggle
  • SC PEAC077: Peace Studies and Action
  • HC HIST480: Independent Study: History of Friends Institute 1880-1980

Although I have divided this minor into two thematic parts, all seven courses listed above complement one another. Quaker Social Witness (ICPR244) and History and Principles of Quakerism (RELG240) provided me with two distinct perspectives on Quakerism that academically enriched my understanding of Quaker history, faith and practice. In the former (ICPR244), we explored how Quakers, both historically and in the present, live out their testimonies. We did so by reading Pendle Hill Pamphlets, and excerpts of The Journal and Major Essays of John Woolman, and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, and by dialoguing with guest speakers who put their faith in action. The latter course (RELG240) was in many ways an extension of the former, providing the historical and theological context for present day Quakerism.

My Independent Study: History of Friends Institute 1880-1980 (HIST480) is a continuation of this exploration. My interest in Friends Institute was sparked while writing my final paper in History and Principles of Quakerism (RELG240). Friends Institute was a Philadelphia-based organization of primarily young adult Quakers whose aim was to foster social interaction among Friends. The Institute was created at a time when Friends in the Philadelphia area were sharply divided along theological and philosophical lines. My research is showing that Friends Institute served as a unifying force in these divisive times. My understanding of the political and theological Quaker scene in the 19th and 20th centuries was gained from the two preceding courses: ICPR244 and RELG240.

As mentioned above, Quakerism was born out of religious persecution in 17th century England. Since that time, Quakers have been internationally recognized for challenging oppression and injustice and fostering peace-building efforts on local and global scales. The other four courses in this minor will parallel and enhance my study of Quaker peace work and resistance to oppression. These four courses are truly interdisciplinary, from the political perspective gained from Difference and Discrimination in American Politics (POLS123) to the sociological and anthropological insights gleaned from Social Movements and Civil Rights in the US (SOCH237).

While none of the material covered in Difference and Discrimination in American Politics (POLS123) and Research Seminar: Strategies of Nonviolent Struggle (PEAC071) dealt with Quakerism specifically, these two courses provided invaluable context for my study of Quaker responses to oppression. The theories, strategies, and tactics of nonviolent campaigns that I learned while taking Strategies of Nonviolent Struggle (PEAC071) have been invaluable in my present course, Social Movements and Civil Rights in the US (SOCH237). My semester-long research project for that latter course is on the Earth Quaker Action Team, a group of Friends and friends of Friends in the Philadelphia area that is currently using nonviolent direct action tactics to press for the end of mountaintop removal coal mining in the Appalachian Valley. Peace Studies and Action (PEAC077) will expand my knowledge even further, bridging the gaps between research, theory and social witness.

I envision that the summation of my research for my independent study credit (HIST480), together with my semester-long research project on the Earth Quaker Action Team, will constitute the “capstone” work for this minor.