Home Institution

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Publication Date

Spring 2018

Program Name

South Africa: Community Health and Social Policy


The purpose of this project was to look at how members of Durban's Masxha township develop their belief systems and ideas about their world. This topic was developed out of a desire to better understand the factors that promote or inhibit individuals from changing their mind about topics relating to their community, society, and culture. I sought to gain a deeper understanding of the specific context of Masxha and the experiences and lives of those with whom I spoke.

To accomplish the goal of learning from lived experiences, this study employed a narrative inquiry approach. Using loosely-structured interviews involving eight Masxha residents, this project was deeply-rooted in participants sharing their lived experiences surrounding the development of their beliefs; the wide array of responses gathered from interviews illustrates the highly individualized nature of these conversations. I found that participants’ beliefs were far less black and white than I had initially anticipated. The nature of my interviews—they were one-on-one and I encouraged the telling of personal stories—allowed participants to share the gray areas of their belief formation in richly descriptive ways. I didn’t know it at the time of my interviews, but these gray areas would become an essential component in my personal reflection on this project.

This paper sought to illustrate the complexity of the belief narratives I heard and to demonstrate that the gray areas—the spaces in between understanding and clarity—are where opportunities for learning take place. This paper also explored findings on the roles of both community and family members in the development of beliefs and the highly complex and personal process of navigating belief formation and evolution.

These stories have been interwoven into a series of creative analytic pieces that serve as snapshots into the far more intricate experiences of the eight individuals whose narratives, by and large, form this project’s foundation.


African History | African Languages and Societies | African Studies | Epistemology | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Sociology of Culture


Article Location