Cultural master narratives are one of the ways that we know how we’re supposed to behave and be in order to be accepted or belong within a particular culture. They are often expectations, archetypes, and stereotypes.
Cultural master narratives are not neutral. Belonging is often at stake. Those who follow or align themselves with the cultural master narrative will likely experience a greater sense of belonging than those who don’t. Not aligning with a cultural master narrative can lead to disconnection, ostracization, or expulsion.
Cultural master narratives are so well known within a culture that they are invisible. They are the water that we are all swimming in. Every culture has multiple cultural master narratives.
My research focuses on identifying cultural master narratives and discovering how we navigate our cultural’s master narratives. It is based on the cultural master narrative framework developed by human development researchers, Dr. Kate McLean and Dr. Moin Syed. I couple the cultural master narrative framework with anthropological methods, cultural consensus analysis and cultural consonance analysis, to identify cultural master narratives within communities.
For my dissertation, I worked with women living in the United States who were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) to identify some LDS cultural master narratives. You can find a PDF copy of the full dissertation, Navigating Ideals: Latter-day Saint Women and Latter-day Saint Cultural Master Narratives, at the bottom of this page.
Navigating Ideals: Latter-day Saint Women and Latter-day Saint Cultural Master Narratives
The table of contents of the dissertation can guide you to the sections that interest you. If you do not want to read the entire dissertation I would recommend the following:
The purpose of the study and the research questions (pages 16 – 18)
Who I am as a person and researcher and how that may impact the study (pages 19 – 22)
Overview of cultural narratives and how they become cultural master narratives (pages 38 – 48)
Introduction to Latter-day Saints and Latter-day Saint women (pages 52 – 65)
Explanation of the identified cultural master narratives and other findings from this study (pages 104 – 138)
A note to Latter-day Saints (pages 140 – 142)
Brief biographies of Latter-day Saint women who inspired the interview pseudonyms (pages 154 – 148)
Latter-day Saint Cultural Master Narratives
These are the Latter-day Saint cultural master narratives that emerged from my research. This does not represent all LDS cultural master narratives.
1. LDS women should receive an education just in case.
2. It’s important for LDS women to be educated but not necessarily intelligent.
3. Being a mother is the most important role for an LDS woman.
4. Mothers are supposed to stay home with their children.
5. Living the Gospel results in a healthy, happy, joyful life.
6. LDS women should be happy.
7. Spiritual progress means staying on the straight and narrow path.
8. LDS women are supposed to look pretty, polished, and perfect.`
9. It is necessary to be active in the church to be socially accepted.
My deepest gratitude to all of the Latter-day Saint women who participated in this study. I’m especially grateful to the thirty women I interviewed and the three women who acted as key informants.
Ostler, Elizabeth Ann, “Navigating Ideals: Latter-Day Saint Women and Latter-Day Saint Cultural Master Narratives” (2023). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI30422665.