DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Research and Objective Thinking

Written by: on October 7, 2015

Research and Objective Thinking

Gill Valentine: Social Geographies: Space and Society


In this book, Gill Valentine’s emphasis on space as it relates to all aspects and levels of human social interaction provides the readers in DMIN/lgp6 with yet another way to view, scrutinize and interpret the world we live in. In Sarah Pink’s, Doing Visual Ethnography, we learned to become more knowledgeable about our environment (space and society) by engaging in visual images to the point of finding meaning and understanding in our visual experiences.
Valentine has also offered us a refresher course in doing research that specifically supplements Kate Turabian’s, A Manual for Writers Of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, and Richard Paul and Linda Elder’s, Critical Thinking: Concepts and Tools, which provides tips on analyzing and assessing research, and how to avoid egocentric and sociocentric thinking.


Valentine presents a geographer’s perspective of diverse human social relations and interactions as they are played out in various social geographies. The book covers a wide range of human relations, perceptions, and tensions in eight different categories of human activity and notes their significance in spatial structures and society. The author’s arguments are based on her own research and the work of other researchers and scholars on relevant subjects.


The section on institutions is of special interest to me because tentatively, my cross-cultural field research project will deal with institutionalized children in orphanages in a sub-Saharan African nation. Valentine admits that relatively speaking, geographers have not given much attention to institutions as social geographies and orphanages are not mentioned in the book. However, there are many correlations with institutions in the arenas that were discussed. The book articulates in concrete terms the nature of institutions that I have personally observed to be true regarding Christian based orphanages.
It is Valentine’s opinion that in lieu of the family home, institutions can provide minor children with the adult supervision, care, and protection they need. Institutions are regarded as spatial structures of power where the persons who have jurisdiction over these children also have the authority to set boundaries, control and determine spaces within which these children can interact. Thus, “Children are differentiated from adults in a deferential and hierarchical way.” 1
The general school experience that Valentine depicts for children would also apply to Christian orphanage school experiences. Valentine calls them, “spaces where children are acculturated into adult norms and expectations about what it means to be a good citizen. Children are expected to be compliant and obey authority.” 2 They are expected to exhibit good manners and etiquette, and respect cultural traditions. For this reason Valentine relates, “Educational institutions are a hotbed of moral geographies—of moral codes about how and where children ought to learn and behave.” 3
I hope to gain even more insights on the social geographies of institutions through research. It is my intention to explore possibilities for ministry in which I can participate in and perpetuate the discipleship and betterment of children in these social geographies. That is, to be instrumental in the development of these children into productive members of society who will exemplify the ways of Christ.
The section of the book on “The Body,” had the least interest for me. Especially, the topic of future bodies and all that it entails. I could not relate to that subject.

1. Gill Valentine, Social Geographies: Space and Society (London: Routledge 2013), 143.
2. Ibid. 144.
3. Ibid. 144.
Valentine, Gill. Social Geographies: Space and Society. London: Routledge, 2013.

About the Author

Claire Appiah

5 responses to “Research and Objective Thinking”

  1. mm Rose Anding says:

    Oh Claire, it was great reading your blog! As I told you, I always look forward to reading your blog. Now that we have met, I giggle when I read the sentence, about ‘body’ being the least interest to you. But may I remind you, when you meet a person, sometime you see the body before a word is spoken;but there are thoughts of the person, which come from your worldview. According to valentine, “The body is a symbol of the self, an object of public display and the responsibility of its owner, we are expected to be vigilant about our size, shape, and appearance and disciple ourselves in order to produce our bodies in culturally desirable ways (Valentine 1999a, 1999b). Because the body is a being that we make our connection with and our experience of the environment. I made connection with you in HK, and we experience life in an Asian environment. Thanks Claire for a great post! Rose Maria

  2. Pablo Morales says:

    Claire, I’m glad the book was relevant for your research topic. You said, “It is my intention to explore possibilities for ministry in which I can participate in and perpetuate the discipleship and betterment of children.” You have made a good point. The betterment of children is not found in simply getting a good education, but it starts with getting a good discipleship. Many of the initiatives that work with orphans in third world countries emphasize access to education, but not all of them emphasize discipleship. In our own research at our church we found out that some orphan ministries distinguish themselves from others in being more holistic in their approach. They do not only satisfy the physical and social needs of the child, but also the spiritual. I hope that as you research this topic, you are able to find a ministry with a shared conviction about the importance of discipleship. Perhaps a good resource that you may want to consider is to attend the Christian Alliance for Orphans annual conference (CAFO). That is the largest gathering of orphan ministries around the world. You would have access to a variety of ministries of all sizes and shapes. You can check their website at

  3. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Claire, thanks for connecting the dots with our previous reading. Well done.

    It’s interesting that under the category of institutions Valentine addresses asylums but not orphanages. I’m glad you were able to apply that section to orphanages. Are you aware of any orphanages that are able to create a social geography that feels more like family and less like institution?

    As I write that question, I’m reminded of one orphanage I visited outside Kampala, Uganda that has the children grouped into small “villages” seeking to keep life as similar to normal village life as possible. If it would ever be of interest I can probably track down contact information. (The director of that orphanage is the brother in law of the friend who married my wife and me.)

    • Claire Appiah says:

      That was my original vision—to find a way to provide housing for orphans that replicated a natural, family home setting, rather than an institution. I am not presently aware of any such set-up anywhere. I would be much obliged if you could track down the relevant information. Thanks for any efforts you make in that regard.

  4. mm Phil Goldsberry says:


    First, great job on your blog. Social geographies are interesting at best. Valentine’s views are in some ways challenging in lieu that our DMin deals with “practical ministry”? Do her views challenge our Judeo-Christian influence?

    How do you view “institutions” versus “community” in regards to your dissertation? You mentioned sub-Saharan orphanages….can orphaned children be effectively cared for in “institutions” or “community”? What creates a safe social geography for orphans?


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