This is my calling: an Ethnography of Black Women's Vocational Formation

“…my Calling: an Ethnography of Vocation", we will hear from black women about how their vocation is formed, sustained, and transformed throughout life. ”

Team Members/Contributors

Phillis Isabella Sheppard Vanderbilt University Contact Me

About this award

This study will conduct with interviews with US Black/African American women on their vocational identity. An ethnographic content analysis of these interviews will be conducted in order to reach a deeper understanding of the varieties of avenues that lead to black women’s vocational identity. Gender and race (along with class, sexuality, and education) are understood from womanist and intersectional perspectives in that they are experienced simultaneously by black women and have real life implications for experience and vocational formation. As an example, Missionary Mary Proctor, an economically challenged black “outsider” artist “received” her vocation at age 34 following the tragic loss of her grandparents in a fire. The door to the exit was blocked. Proctor was paralyzed by unrelenting sorrow for a year. At the end of the year Proctor received a vision “to paint the door.” The door reads “The Church of Art Founded by Missionary Mary L. Proctor Since 1995.” Proctor has opened a gallery where she exhibits her art of religious messages with a focus on black experience and the struggle to make meaning of loss and to pursue love, liberation, and generativity. She understands her life work as a ministry: “This is my calling now.”

The formation of vocational identity is a complex process intertwined with the realities of social location. First, this project seeks to bring to light the process of vocational identity formation of 20 black women, and the relationship between race, gender, and religion in the process.

Second, the project seeks to contribute to existing scholarship through a conference (at Vanderbilt Divinity School) of 5 (five) womanist pastoral and practical theologians who are engaged in ethnographies of black women's experience. Five (5) Local pastors will be invited as panelists to respond to the pastoral and congregational implications of the material presented.