Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


Terry Lynn Cornwell

Primary Subject Area

Religion, General; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies


Muted group, power, language, persecution, culture, China, women, house churches, Christianity


While studying the Bakweri people of Cameroon in the 1960s, Edwin and Shirley
Ardener discovered that it was the men who dominated and controlled the power and language of the group and created the societal understanding and the cultural makeup of their tribe's identity. The men did not allow the women to speak or have a say in the elements of their culture; these women were muted. Throughout history many individuals, especially women, have been muted in any number of ways. These include political, economical, social, cultural constrictions, even to the point of death, to keep them from being represented. In the larger society, some have even been muted in the ultimate way-through murder. Today, this is dramatically evident in the way that the Chinese government is attempting to mute the Christian house churches in China and the women who lead them. How we understand and give a voice to this muted group and its women may have a dramatic effect on the way we interact with the next rising world superpower, China.

This thesis investigates the muted voice of the house church in China and focuses on the muted women leaders of the Chinese house churches. I conducted interviews with seven such women in China to determine how these muted women view their voice in Chinese society.