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Dion Forster
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Servant, companion and friend, PhD in Science and Theology (Cognitive Neuroscience and Identity). I'm the author of several books in spirituality, theology and business. My days are spent journeying with people who desire to live life to the full.
Servant, companion and friend, PhD in Science and Theology (Cognitive Neuroscience and Identity). I'm the author of several books in spirituality, theology and business. My days are spent journeying with people who desire to live life to the full.

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Writing a research proposal for Masters or PHD research VLOG 101

Writing a research proposal for your Masters or PHD doctoral research can be a tricky, and difficult process! In this video I share some tips and insights on how you can shape your thoughts for consideration by a research committee, or your promotor / advisor / supervisor.

Please note that these thoughts are primarily shaped around what we expect for our students at Stellenbosch University (although the videos are not formally associated with the University of Stellenbosch). So, please make sure that you discuss the expectations, insight, and requirements with your University or Supervisor.

I recommend that you take a look at a few books that will help you to shape your research proposal and research thoughts:

Given, Lisa M. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2008.

Mouton, J. How to Succeed in Your Master’s and Doctoral Studies: A South African Guide and Resource Book. Pretoria: Van Schaik, 2001.

You may also find some of the books and articles on this list helpful:

Bergold, Jarg, and Stefan Thomas. ‘Participatory Research Methods: A Methodological Approach in Motion’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research 13, no. 1 (30 January 2012). http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1801.
Bryman, Alan. ‘Of Methods and Methodology’. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management 3, no. 2 (2008): 159–68. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/17465640810900568.
Cooper, Karyn, and Robert E. White, eds. Qualitative Research in the Post-Modern Era. Dordrecht: Springer Netherlands, 2012. http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-94-007-2339-9.
Corbin, Juliet, and Anselm Strauss. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications, 2014.
McIntyre, Alice. Participatory Action Research. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2008.
Neuman, William Lawrence. Social Research Methods: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2011.
Punch, Keith F. Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. SAGE, 2013.
Saldaña, Johnny. Fundamentals of Qualitative Research. Understanding Qualitative Research. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Shalin, Hai-Jew. Enhancing Qualitative and Mixed Methods Research with Technology. IGI Global, 2014.
Taylor, Steven J., Robert Bogdan, and Marjorie L. DeVault. Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods: A Guidebook and Resource. Fourth edition. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2016.

I'd love to hear your experiences with preparing a research proposal. Feel free to drop me a question, a comment, or some feedback here or on the links below.

You can find all of these videos on http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post them there as they are ready. I have already recorded some and just need to edit and upload them.

Please note that these videos, and the views expressed in them, are my own and are not formally associated with the University of Stellenbosch, or the University of Gothenberg (where they were recorded).

Feel free to leave me a comment or a question at:
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DionAForster
Twitter or instagram: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion or @digitaldion on Instagram
Find out more about my research and publications at: https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster

Thanks for watching! Please subscribe and share the videos.
#vlog #research #phd #doctorate #phdresearch #doctoralresearch
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The Irish theologian, Peter Rollins, was part of a unique Church community in New York City called 'IconNYC'. If I understand it correctly, it was a year long experiment in Christian community that sought to consider the Christian journey, indeed the Christian community, in ways that held the tensions of doubts, uncertainties, and the realities of our struggles with belief.

Having some understanding of how the brain works, I realise how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to live with uncertainty. Our neuro-evolution has formed us to want patterns, to create certainty and predictability, for the sake of our survival. This can be seen in how we seek out communities of belonging that we understand (what in inter-group contact theory is called 'in-group' identity). We can understand how persons of a certain race, culture, economic class, religion, think and behave. So we seek sameness, and become afraid of difference. This leads to inter-group contact anxiety between the self and the other. It is not surprising to me that Americans want to build a wall, that European countries are trying to keep migrants out, and that racism and identity politics continue to thrive in South Africa. None of these things is just, right, or even desirable. Yet, we fall into the traps of self interest, and self protection. We are wired for it to a certain extent.

However, we soon find that even in the in-group there are differences. White protestant women in Chicago, IL see the world differently from white protestant men in Birmingham, AL. Not all South Africans see the world in the same way... You get the idea.

In my experience, the pursuit of certainty is painful, it is limiting, it binds us to our fears, instead of releasing us for freedom.

The 'IconNYC' community, and Peter Rollins' 'Pyrotheology' speak to me as I contemplate these issues. I am currently in Gothenburg in Sweden. Here I am the cultural, linguistic and geographical stranger (not to mention a stranger to the climate! I realised yesterday as it snowed, that my body was formed from the African soil, and baked in the African sun!) Yet, the difference, the strangeness, the doubts, can be OK. I can learn about others, and about myself. I can slow down and listen - paying a little more attention to unfamiliar people, places and experiences. And the difference becomes a gift. I don't have to collapse it into my world-view, or contain it in my understanding or experience. I can just participate, observe, experience, and know what I can.

It is a sacred experience. It reminds me that God is Swedish... And also African... And Asian... You get the idea? We are because of who God is. Our diversity is an expression of God's creativity.

Here is what Rollins had to say about uncertainties, doubts and pyrotheology:



The good news nestled in the heart of Christianity is not that which gives us certainty and satisfaction, but rather is that which helps us embrace our un-knowing, our doubts, and our dissatisfaction… Instead of seeking a burning bush, a place where God is, we will discover that every bush is burning, that everything is sacred and full of depth, if we only have eyes to see.
- Peter Rollins, Pyrotheology

If you have 3 minutes more, you may want to listen to him speaking about this in his wonderful Irish accent! See the video below, or at this link: https://youtu.be/gY-VITTf7k4

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster
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In this article I consider how social media functions like a religion for many contemporary users.

New York Times bestselling author, Yuval Harari, writes in Sapiens that it is the human capacity for “fiction” that makes us different from other species. Simply stated, we are believers, and our beliefs shape our world. “You could never convince a monkey,” he says, “to give you a banana by promising him limitless bananas after death in monkey heaven.” Today, things that do not “really” exist, like Twitter, Facebook, borders, currencies, and political agreements are reshaping things that do exist, like weather patterns, species loss, and human freedoms.

In this sense, humanity remains deeply religious. We believe, often without question, in things that we cannot see. They shape our relationships and practices by shaping our emotions.

Follow the link to read more...
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It's time to meet my darling - Doris the Brompton Bicycle! VLOG 86

In this VLOG I introduce you to my Brompton M3L folding bicycle, lovingly named Doris. I get more questions about Doris from my VLOG than anything else! People send me messages, come to me at conferences, meet me in the street or at my office and ask 'So where is Doris?', or 'Do you have your bicycle here?' Ha ha! Well, it is time to introduce you to this wonderful folding bike. Doris is 18 years old now! But it is an amazing bicycle - a faithful friend on my travels. A wonderful means of 'therapy'. A great way to see a city, and of course a super source of health and fitness.

If you know of anyone who owns a Brompton bicycle please let me know! I only know of two other Bromptons in Cape Town (owned by a lecturer at Stellenbosch University and his wife), and then of one in KZN (owned by a Professor of Old Testament studies, who used to be my colleague at Stellenbosch University). Then there is one in George along the Southern Cape coast - owned by a Professor who also bought his while living in England, and then brought it with him to South Africa when he was appointed to the University of Pretoria, and now has it in George.

Well, Doris is a wonder! Old, but magnificent!

By the way, I have a Brompton 'travel' tumblr site that has pictures, videos and all sorts of other information about my travels with this Brompton bicycle. See http://capetownbrompton.tumblr.com AND!

There is a South Africa Brompton Facebook page! Please join it if you own a Brompton (or would like to own a Brompton!) go here: https://www.facebook.com/SABromptonclub/

Lastly, you can see a video of me riding my Brompton Bicycle on the 2017 Cape Town Cycle Tour (Argus Cycle Tour), 109 km around the Cape Coast. Find it here: https://youtu.be/1Z_eq78qdkU

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Thanks! #VLOG #Brompton #BromptonBicycle #Fun #Stellenbosch #Cycling #Travel
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In my new book 'The (im)possibility of forgiveness?' I present the complexity of notions of forgiveness in South Africa. South Africa's apartheid history (and current reality) is extremely traumatic. It continues to dehumanize the majority of the citizens of South Africa.

I tend not to speak of a 'post-apartheid' South Africa since I feel that even though we live in a democratic dispensation where apartheid laws have been dealt with, the daily reality of most of our citizens is that apartheid is more entrenched than ever before. Except, now instead of it being primarily a political system in which an unjust state is the supposed enemy, it is a subtle economic system that is deeply entrenched in the social imagination. Some find it extremely difficult to imagine a South Africa in which no person has too much while another person does not even have enough to survive. The 'enemy' we now face is so seductive. It runs across racial and class barriers, seducing us into greater and greater sin. We want to own more possessions, gather more wealth, live in greater opulence, and experience so much more freedom and pleasure. And so, the rich grow richer, while the poor grow poorer.

It is primarily Black South Africans continue to be systematically oppressed through this unjust (economic) system, with unequal ownership of land, and the dominance of whiteness in social spaces and the media. If you want to hear more about my reasons for advocating against the use of 'post-apartheid' as a reasonable statement, or category of thought, then please watch this short video. Simply stated, if I were to claim that we live in a post-apartheid society it would not be true in relation to the daily experience of most of South Africa's citizens. Not only would it be a lie, but it would be a callous lie since it would deny the reality of hardship, suffering and pain that people experience every day.

Hence, while South Africa is closer to democracy (where citizens have the right have to rights), the reality is that politically and economically those rights remain out of reach for most. We are in 'most apartheid' South Africa. In this context, forgiveness becomes a deeply political concept.

Hence I ask, for what reason would White South Africans wish to be forgiven? Is it so that we can be set free from the guilt of our past, and the ongoing guilt of our present way of living? Nathan Trantaal speaks of the 'gif [poison] in vergifnis [forgiveness]'. Forgiveness can be a weapon that creates wounds. A White South African can seek it from a place of power and dominance - asking to be set free without having to face the consequences of our sin (economic sin, racial sin, social sin).

So, if we were to think about a polis in which forgiveness was not only a belief, but a reality, what would it look like? What would it take to get there? I am inspired by Miroslav Volf's idea in 'The end of memory'.

I am often asked when I speak about forgiveness, whether when we forgive, are we expected to forget? I think that forgetting altogether can be dangerous. However, what if we were to live for a world in which a memory of justice, reconciliation, mutual respect, the celebration of diversity, and true wholeness was what we remembered instead of our brokenness, enmity, greed, and fear? How would we need to start living today as a society, a polis, to make such a memory real in the future? This is what Stanley Hauerwas would call a political eschatology.

In this reality forgiveness cannot only be only as a spiritual or a theological reality. It must be concrete, it must be real. The content of true forgiveness should be experienced in a society of justice and grace.

However, it is also inadequate to think that once a political or economic 'transaction' has been enacted that forgiveness would have been achieved - the transactional view of forgiveness is as inadequate as the purely spiritual view.

Please don't missunderstand me - I firmly believe that we need a redistribution of land in South Africa, we need a transformation of our economy, and we must work for a reality in which the majority of our citizens benefit from the bounty and beauty of our land. However, when these necessary things are achieved, we will not yet be reconciled - forgiveness will not yet be achieved. These social, political and economic realities are not the 'end' of forgiveness (its fulfillment or achievement), no, they are the beginnings of forgiveness. Beyond the transaction we need something more, something gracious, something spiritual, something that is shaped by justice but achieved in grace.

I hope that you can see why this notion of forgiveness is such a complex concern? I long for us to be honest about the complexity of the politics of forgiveness in South Africa. It is only when we are willing to count the cost, and even more, to live with grace, that we can move beyond poisonous forgiveness to life giving, life affirming, and real forgiveness. A forgiveness that heals instead of harms.

Here is a copy of the Stellenbosch University Forum lecture that I gave on this topic in September 2017. I was honoured, and very grateful, to be invited by the University to deliver this lecture. The lecture was entitled 'The (im)possibility of forgiveness? Considering the complexities of religion, race and politics in South Africa'. The lecture has been reworked and will soon be published in a book on Religion, Violence and Reconciliation in Africa (published by SUN Media).

A link to my book: The (im)possibility of forgiveness? http://www.africansunmedia.co.za/Sun-e-Shop/Product-Details/tabid/78/ProductID/498/Default.aspx

A link to 'The end of memory' https://www.amazon.com/dp/0802829899/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_ep_dp_oLMWAbVXJK83A

A link to a story on Nathan Trantaal: http://www.litnet.co.za/alles-het-niet-kom-wod-deur-nathan-trantraal-n-resensie/

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Thanks!
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Sh*t hole countries and the dignity of human persons #VLOG 78 youtu.be/XOgt152VF3M Our value does not come from our geography, our abilities, our wealth, our intellect, or any other lesser aspect of who we are. You have inestimable value because you are human #sh*thole
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Graduating with a PHD at Stellenbosch University - Celebrating with Dr Anna Cho VLOG 77

Today’s short VLOG is a celebration! One of my star students, Dr Anna Cho, was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy on 7 December 2017 in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.

Anna worked with me on her dissertation in Biblical Ethics. Here is the reference for her dissertation:

Cho, A. 2017. Christian Ethical Implications of the Presence of the Kingdom as God’s Performative Action in the Light of Speech Act Theory. PHD dissertation. University of Stellenbosch.

Anna and I also co-authored an academic article together in the journal ‘Scriptura’. Here is a reference to that article:

Cho, Ann, and Dion Angus Forster. “The Religious Linguistic Characteristics of the Presence of the Kingdom in the Light of Speech Act Theory: Christian Ethical Implications.” Scriptura: International Journal of Bible, Religion and Theology in Southern Africa 116 (2017): 1–12.

If you are interested in studying at Stellenbosch University please see the University Website for details http://www.sun.ac.za

You can find out more about the Faculty of Theology and our programmes at https://www.sun.ac.za/english/faculty/theology

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Thanks!
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VLOG 67 Summer in Berlin! Captured with a Leica camera
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In today’s VLOG I travel to Leuven in Belgium for a conference with my friend Prof Kobus Kok. It is a wonderful journey, and so much fun with my Brompton bicycle (cycle, train, bus, cycle!) It is awesome. But, I notice that the demographics of the Netherlands and Belgium differ somewhat. This got me thinking about the current concerns in Europe, the USA and elsewhere about refugees, ‘closing’ one’s borders, BREXIT and of course Turkey, France and Trump’s USA.

I discuss John Rawls’ Theory of Justice as one way of viewing how we might structure our societies economically and politically if we have a concern for our past history and our future shared wellbeing.

See John Rawls’ ‘A theory of justice’ here: http://amzn.to/2qg83OI

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion
Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/digitaldion
Web: http://www.dionforster.com

Thanks
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