Gender and Conversion Narrative in a New Zealand Context

  • David Bosma
Keywords: Gender, Conversion, Communication, New Zealand, Māori Introduction


Two articles, published in 2005 and 2012 respectively, have analyzed the narratives of
converts to Christianity, and delineated the differences in storytelling style that have emerged
between male and female study participants. Both articles borrow heavily from the work of
gender theorist Deborah Tannen in how they structure this analysis. However, given that both
of these projects were undertaken in the United States of America, and with largely Caucasian
participants, there is significant scope for further research into the relationship between gender
and conversion narrative. Thirty-two semi-structured interviews with recent converts to
Christianity from secular backgrounds in Canterbury, New Zealand, are the basis for the original
data presented in this paper. Referral sampling was used as a means of finding participants who
were willing and available to share their story of coming to faith with the researcher. The data
was analyzed in the same fashion as the North American projects, yet in some places yielded
different results, particularly in the areas of relational connection with the interviewer,
storytelling style, and central character. The inclusion of New Zealand Māori participants in the
present study is one reason for this, and indicates the significance of ethnicity in determining
individual storytelling style, an observation that is somewhat overlooked in the earlier projects.
A seventh category, the need for experiential proof, is also offered as one further way in which
male and female storytellers differ in how they narrate their conversion experiences.