Sarah Haggar recently won a Kākano Award to help with costs associated with printing and binding her Masters thesis, Quotidian Hopes: Interfaith in Auckland as a Movement for ‘Good’, which she submitted to the University of Auckland in October 2017. In the piece below, she reflects on manifestations of hope during her fieldwork.
Despite seemingly endless global turmoil, movements like interfaith consist of people steadily working for “the good” (Robbins 2013). Such work is often mundane, anchored in hope, and persists despite indifference and discrimination. A core element of my thesis was using work from scholars such as Hage (2003), Bloch (1986) and Miyazaki (2006), to analyse how interfaith actors came to embody a dispositional hope for a peaceful future which influenced their interfaith engagement.
I experienced many moments filled with quiet positivity, with people invigorated and filled with an energetic hope for the future. There were, however, also moments which echoed Bloch (1986) and Miyazaki’s (2006: 70) analyses of disappointment as the “engine” of hope. These moments were not as prevalent, but they are crucial to understanding interfaith, and are often what continue to resonate with me. When I saw people begin to bow beneath the weight of the seemingly endless road ahead, and then turn around and use that borderline despair to reaffirm their efforts, it became clear that working against social disinterest, governmental abandonment, inner conflicts, intra-religious tensions, disagreements, and striving for peace against a spectre of disaster, all fuel their hopes for a better world.
At the annual Council of Christians and Muslims AGM, Samit, the Muslim co-president was visibly discouraged by the low numbers of attendance. This caused him to give an impassioned impromptu speech, lamenting how long he and his Christian co-president, Hugh, had been working away with the council, trying to get more people involved. He said it was longer than they both should have and implied they were too old and that they needed younger people to get involved. He was especially disappointed that no one from his own mosque had come, and recounted that he had asked them to attend these events on multiple occasions. To the small group, he despondently queried: “What more can we do?”
The dearth of people showing up to events is one of the biggest causes of faltering hopes, and the low attendance at this AGM seemed to trigger a deeper sense of despair within Samit. However, affected he was on that day, the next time I saw him, a month later, he told me he had some ideas to fix the issue of low involvement. Gone was his sorrowful, despondent tone, to be replaced by a quiet excitement at future opportunities. His hopes had faltered under the weight of his disappointment, but he persisted despite this. Samit’s struggle is not uncommon, and echoes some of the unifying features of interfaith: a commitment to ideas of goodness, hopes for peaceful futures, and a persistence to see these eventuated.
Bloch, E., 1986. The Principle of Hope. Vol. 1. Trans. N. Plaice, S. Plaice, and P. Knight. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hage, G., 2003. Against Paranoid Nationalism Searching for hope in a shrinking society. Pluto Press.
Miyazaki, H., 2006. The method of hope: Anthropology, philosophy, and Fijian knowledge. Stanford University Press.
By Sarah Haggar