Ellen T. Armour
This chapter considers analyses offered by three important feminist scholars, working in different religious traditions, who attend to specific forms of women's religiosity. In Changing the Subject: Women's Discourses and Feminist Theology, Mary McClintock Fulkerson attempts to carve out a place within feminist theology for Christian women who do not consider themselves feminist. In The Hammer and the Flute: Women, Power and Spirit Possession, Mary Keller's analysis of the phenomenon of spirit possession, which affects many more women than men, becomes a site in which to reflect anew on questions of gender and religious subjectivity. In Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, anthropologist Saba Mahmood finds that the issues raised by her study of Egyptian women involved in an Islamic renewal movement challenge certain feminist orthodoxies. Taking each author in turn, the chapter first traces the particular contours of the religious phenomenon each analyzes and shows how they reframe religious subjectivity. The final section brings the three essays together and describes what avenues they open up for constructive feminist theology in a global context.
This chapter discusses women and ritual practice in the Christian tradition, women's ritual practices in the twentieth century, the development of feminist rituals, the globalization of feminist rituals, international networks of Christian women, and feminist activism in the Church. It argues that women creating and celebrating feminist rituals are here to stay. At the same time, of the roughly one billion Christian women around the globe, those who participate in feminist ritual practices are a distinct minority. A multitude of Christian women, however, do practice their faith in symbol, ritual, celebration, and song, and they do so—whether self-consciously or not, in an established group or alone—in gender-specific ways. Whatever the future of distinctly feminist rituals might hold, this gender-specific meaning-making of the rituals of faith will remain, at least until gender loses its defining force as a marker of difference in our world.
This chapter presents an account of what feminist theology is and how it might help us understand and engage with our globalizing world. The first section provides a non-faith-specific definition of feminist theology as an intracultural activist enterprise aimed at exploring the landscape of religious imagination from a feminist perspective, and also lays out a few of feminist theology's most distinctive “plays of imagination.” The second section turns to faith-informed, Christian feminist theology, describing it as a more narrowly focused activist enterprise that explores the landscape of the distinctly Christian theological imagination from a feminist perspective. Its distinctive “plays of mind” are delineated as well. The third section turns to the topic of globalization and maps out the central features of “the global imagination,” describing the ways in which globalization has impacted and shifted our thinking processes in recent decades, particularly in the global North. The final section returns to Christian feminist theology (and to pluralistic feminist theology as well), suggesting ways its faith imagination—its theological plays of mind—might productively engage the global imagination with the aim of improving, in new and creative ways, the lives of women everywhere.
Building on the foundations of First Wave Jewish and Christian women's activism, Jewish feminist theology has made a decisive contribution to the post-Holocaust renewal of Jewish thought. Its vision of Israel as an assembly of gendered persons whose ethical relationships with the world and with one another are witness to the love and justice of God has introduced inclusive language into the liturgy, and has expanded the linguistic and imaginal range of Jewish evocations of God. In doing so, Jewish feminist theology has established the theological terms on which to affirm the full humanity of Jewish women as subjects and agents of their own Jewish experience. This chapter begins by outlining the denominational and postdenominational contexts of Jewish feminist theology and assessing its standing in the primarily Anglophone Jewish community in which it has established itself since the second half of the 1970s. It then moves on to examine the ideas and approaches of a number of Jewish feminist theology's key practitioners, and some of the challenges it is likely to face over the coming years.
Lily Kong and Seeta Nair
Geographical research concerned with the expansion or contraction of religious groups has tended to adopt the “Berkeley tradition” of cultural geography—examining how religious groups spread their influence; the factors aiding the growth of particular religious groups; and the resulting cultural, behavioral, and environmental changes that occur. This chapter is divided into five sections. The first section analyzes how such spatial change can be mapped. The second and third sections describe the processes underpinning the spatial distribution of religions, including resettlement processes, and the conversion practices of proselytizing and non-proselytizing religions. The fourth section analyzes the multitude of factors that facilitate religious conversion, including the efficacy of personal interaction, the accessibility of technology, the use of a common language, and the support of social and governmental structures. Finally, the fifth section examines how processes of migration and conversion impact upon societies in numerous ways, both positive and negative.
Maricel Mena López
This chapter analyzes the context and daily life of Afro-Caribbean women within globalization in order to find ethnical praxis. This is prevailing and necessary in the actual social model where multiple social relations of power foment a civilization based on divisions and antagonism. The focus is on women registered not only within the globalized patriarchy, but also women that are being violated and discriminated against everywhere. When speaking about Latin American Afro-feminist theology, the author does not propose a sectarian and isolated movement, but affirms that a different world is possible. In the same manner, when she affirms the relatedness of our identity as women, she is conscious that, within black women, similar to rich, poor, young, old, lesbian, bisexual, and heterosexual women, there are differences. There are infinite identities, and this is why the chapter cannot become, in the end, an object of reflection; we cannot forget that our fight is also against our particular oppression. We must fight against patriarchy, domination, privileges, and control, as these are values that dehumanize us all.
This chapter explores from a Womanist perspective the complexities of how commingled systems, texts, and violence shape lives, stories, and experiences of the sacred across the globe, beginning by presenting a methodology and exploring concepts of narrative, theology, and globalization. It then analyzes an assortment of texts, noting points of ambiguity, especially in the intersections between story, belief, and worldview. The selected texts represent a variety of narratives or modes of expression that convey tensions between inclusion and exclusion, and which pertain to community development, yet are not often used together in feminist or Womanist analysis. These texts include: (1) The Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1–9); (2) selected chapters from the 1948 United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which focus on what happens to human bodies—living bio-texts or embodied narratives in and of themselves); (3) the song, “We are the World” (1985); and (4) human bio-texts, such as bodies of victims of sex trafficking, sexual assault, and rape as an act of war.
María Cristina Ventura
This chapter considers globalization and its relationship to women's bodies in Latin America, both the effects this new face of capitalism is having on women's bodies in this part of the world and the ways in which women construct modalities as creative resistance strategies. It goes beyond a mere analysis of the socioeconomic impact in a variety of situations to examine what women invent, represent, and endow with power in their discourse, practices, and collective quest to redefine the status of all women, and particularly of women excluded from the so-called global economic system.
Māori are the first nation people of Aotearoa New Zealand, a group of South West Pacific Islands. Colonized by the British Empire, Aotearoa came into being through an act consolidated by the signing of a controversial treaty between Māori tribes and Queen Victoria of England. From their earliest encounter, Māori women, or wahine Māori, experienced a dramatic shift in their social position. Traditionally, they occupied leadership roles at all levels of society. However, colonization instigated a societal reassignment that has led them to their current position behind white males, white females, white children, and Māori males, but ahead of Māori children. Key events in history contributed to the invisibility of wahine Māori in their own context and brought them to their present crisis. To assist the reader in understanding this context, this chapter first considers some key elements of Māori spirituality, and then explores developed and developing relationships, specifically the consequences of the differences between values systems of Māori and the British colonizer. The final section describes the current reality of wahine Māori and draws some conclusions about the influence of globalization in the process.
Far-flung movements of women from disadvantaged areas of the world to more advantaged ones are at the heart of the present configuration of global capitalism. Rather than simply leaving their countries of origin to set up temporary or permanent residence elsewhere, women who move in today's global economy, in order to take jobs as housekeepers or nannies (for example), are typically transnational migrants. Even as they settle into new places, their lives remain bound up with where they came from, in virtue of rather dense social and familial networks bridging national boundaries. Connected simultaneously in this way to at least two places at once, these women are working out in their everyday lives a fundamental reconfiguration of the way cultural traditions are set up and maintained, with significant implications for the understanding of religious traditions in particular. This chapter shows that, in the lives of these women, coming undone is the familiar association of tradition with the intergenerational transmission of an already established way of life by means of face-to-face interactions in a single location.
Azza M. Karam
This chapter begins with a discussion of the legacies of colonialism in the Middle East, and then turns to women and religion in the Middle East, feminisms in the Middle East, and Islamism in the Middle East. It argues that while religious discourse will always have an important role in the Middle East, it is seriously myopic to assume that the Muslim Brotherhood—and all other Islamists—are “anti-women” and “anti-democratic,” as previous nuancing holds. Even within the one organization itself, there are diverse perspectives on women's rights. There are extremely active, very well-educated, cultured, and articulate women members of the Brotherhood, for example, just as there will always be those who are uncomfortable with women's public roles. What must be appreciated is that, in tandem with regime change (and calls for it), are revolutions occurring within almost every group, party, and institution in the Middle East today.
Neela Bhattacharya Saxena
This chapter seeks to contribute to what Raimon Panikkar calls a dialogical dialogue, by speaking in the voice of a Shakta (Shakti worshipper) woman who grew up with the symbol of an all-powerful female deity: Kali, the presiding center of the Tantric tradition. Tantric Advaita, or non-dual thinking, and meditation practices permeate Indic traditions, making the world itself saturated with the spirit of the Divine Feminine. Tantric meditation upon the Devi that fine-tunes the entire being of the practitioner awakens her to the vibrant and subtle Shakti—the energy source of all which animates the universe—within her own body. This awakening at once annihilates the limited self bound by conditioned thinking and opens a window onto the infinite potentiality that only an encounter with death, symbolized by cremation-ground imagery of Kali, can inaugurate. The chapter presents this Gynocentric core of the Indic tradition within the larger context of Hinduism and its long, complex history. It shows how pluralist postmodern worldviews are more congenial to understanding polymorphous Hinduism(s) as opposed to absolutist Western perspectives influenced by imperial, missionary, and reductively rationalist ideas that misread the Great Goddess as a remnant of primitive religiosities, needing the light of masculine reason of Western Enlightenment. The chapter then locates the Indian context in a fast-changing world of global commerce that has the potential to impinge upon human diversity by imposing its own hegemonic vision. It further imagines a positive side effect of globalization—a new global consciousness strengthened by women's voices and spiritual convictions that would possibly herald what has been proclaimed as the second Axial age, opening up intercultural dialogues for the benefit of all—women, men, and the planet as a whole.
The public visibility of headscarves has become emblematic of broader polemical debates about Islam in Europe. This chapter focuses on veiling in ten Western European countries to consider (1) the range and lack of uniformity across the European Union when it comes to how the public presence of hijabs is articulated and legislated, and (2) greater convergence related to public opinion and governmental prohibition of full-face hijabs (or niqabs). This overview is paired with a review of scholarly literature on hijabs and the prevalent nation state and cultural diversity frameworks often used to explain their differing acceptances and refusals.
Rebecca Y. Kim
This chapter examines the close nexus between migration and religion in the Korean American Christian community. After a review of the historical connection between immigration and the Korean church in the United States, it considers the migration and conversion experiences of Korean American Protestants. In particular, it discusses why and how Koreans are more religiously engaged as Christians in the United States than they are in South Korea.
Nancy E. Bedford
Given the fact that religion and globalization are significantly intertwined, what should we make of the contemporary religious faith and practices of Latin American women? Do religious conversion and active participation in a community of faith amount to “adaptive solutions” to the crisis unleashed by capitalist globalization, analogous to those made by women as economic agents? From the perspective of the sociology of religion, it has become a byword that the faith and religious community-building of women—be it the Pentecostalism of Maya women in Guatemala or the activism of Brazilian women in Roman Catholic base communities—can and do serve as coping or indeed as survival strategies in times of globalization. A theological perspective does not necessarily contradict the sociological insight that discovers ways in which religious faith and practices serve in coping and surviving. Because theology speaks in an engaged voice from within the realm of faith, however, it can allow itself—indeed it must—to delve differently than the social sciences. This chapter explores the observation that religious faith and practices of Latin American women, in these economically globalized times, often serve in rather unexpected ways to make space for life, in all of its messiness and materiality.
María Pilar Aquino
Globalization, identity, and feminist theology have been the object of extensive academic research, and are perhaps the concepts that have had the greatest influence on our understanding of contemporary social reality and the function of religious rhetoric in today's world. In the theological field there has been a growing need to clarify the relationship between theology and identity formation in the current context of the social processes of “globalization.” This chapter explores the systematic interaction of these three concepts to bring to light the theological pertinence of a critical feminist theology of liberation for the visions and practices of social change. Such a theology develops the most appropriate analytical and hermeneutical frameworks to face the challenges raised by the current model of globalization, in the context of the social conditions created by which, a critical feminist theology functions as a religious ethical-political force of transformation for a new world of justice. The chapter is organized as follows. The first part highlights some methodological dimensions that expose the theological relevance of critical feminist liberation theology and its significance for present-day aspirations of social change. The second part addresses some key features of today's dominant model of society characterized by kyriarchal globalization, and points out their implications for feminist theological thought. The third and final part focuses on the social function of theological knowledge in the present circumstances and discusses some aspects that may shed light on possible future developments in feminist theology.
This chapter proposes a transethnic feminist theology of Asia, where one's ethnicity can be an entry point but where one moves beyond geographic, cultural, or ethnic boundaries and interests. This transethnic perspective requires a radical ecumenical spirit which adopts a very dialectical approach to race, ethnicity, and culture, and a fundamental awareness that the local, the particular, or the ethnic has always been shaped by the global and the global by the local. This transethnic perspective ought to produce not a blind universalism but a relational and dialectical universalism that promotes “shared sensibilities” across the boundaries of class, gender, race, ethnicity, ability, or orientation without sacrificing the particular situatedness of one's geopolitical and discursive location. This transethnic positionality further establishes a firm ground for the “recognition of common commitments” and will “serve as a base for solidarity and coalition” amongst those who work for the betterment of our society.
Philomena Njeri Mwaura
This chapter interrogates the interplay between globalization, religion, and women in the East African context, and seeks to respond to the following questions: What aspects of globalization affect the spaces where women operate? How has globalization affected gender and family relations? How can justice-seeking feminist theological discourse respond to the challenges of globalization? The chapter begins by defining East Africa; analysing the religio-cultural context that has been shaped by the indigenous African worldview, Western Christianity, colonialism, and the current globalizing forces; and examining how women and religion have been impacted by these complexities and changes. Thereafter, the experiences of women under globalization are discussed with reference to selected issues such as poverty, economy, employment, environment, health, and education; issues chosen because they are critical to women's well-being. As major victims of globalization, women struggle daily to surmount the challenges it poses. In conclusion, ways of responding to globalization from an African women's theological perspective are discussed.