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Religion in a Feminist Theory Course

The following discussion of ways to deal with religion in a course on
feminist theory took place on WMST-L in May 2006.  For additional WMST-L files
available on the Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 22:19:55 -0400
From: Janell Hobson <jhobson AT ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: religion and feminist theory
Hello Everyone,

I'm starting to plan for my syllabus for a feminist theory graduate
seminar in the fall and, since I've taught the class for some time, I've
been wanting to diversify the texts that I use and to try out new themes
and ideas relating to the subject.

One subject that I have yet to teach is the subject of religion.  But I
realize I'm not well versed in terms of feminist theories and
epistemologies (neither canonical texts or cutting-edge ones) pertaining
to religion and theology.

If anyone has any suggestions for texts on feminist theology, liberation
theology, or theorizings on religion, spirituality, and social justice
(I'm open to any religious faiths - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, etc.), I
would greatly appreciate it (especially if they focus not just on gender
issues but intersections between gender, race, class, sexuality,
nationality, etc.).

Please email me privately!

Janell Hobson
jhobson  AT  albany.edu
Date: Wed, 10 May 2006 23:28:14 -0400
From: Jane Hassinger <jahass AT UMICH.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
Graduate students in my course Feminist Practices find it provides  a
very needed way out of the paralysis in which feminists (and arguably
liberal educators in general) have found themselves and on to a
thoughtful feminist discourse on spirituality.

Jane A. Hassinger
Senior Lecturer in Women Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan, 48109
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 06:04:00 -0400
From: Chithra KarunaKaran <ckarunakaran03 AT NETSCAPE.NET>
Subject: Religion and feminist teory
I'm replying to the list on this topic.

   I think a focus on Religion and the Nation-State would help 
foreground theories of POWER in nation-state formation (the U.S. itself 
is a prime example) and the role of religion. U.S. feminists miss this 
point entirely while all around them the white male U.S. empire project 
destabilizes postcolonial nation-states in which religion occupies a 
central importance in their resistive nation-state formation.

   US feminist students might more critically appreciate the role of 
religion when it is shown to necessarily intersect with politics, 
particularly the politics of race, color and national origin, in the 
colonial and postcolonial context, which of course is pretty much the 
contemporary and recent experience of most of Africa, Asia (I have 
family in Africa and Asia), and the so-called Middle East.

   The color line that DuBois powerfully referred to is worth a 
basketful of feminist theory on religion, in my view. DuBois' analysis 
makes necessary an analysis, for example, of Condoleeza Rice's 
ascendancy in the globalizing politics of Whiteness. In an analysis of 
structure vis a vis agency, Rice can be deconstructed as an 
opportunitstic product of Whiteness. I appreciate the scathing analysis 
about her in "BAP Like Me" on Salon. There's no separating power, 
whiteness, religion, gender and state.

 Chithra KarunaKaran
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 07:53:39 -0400
From: Chithra KarunaKaran <ckarunakaran03 AT NETSCAPE.NET>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist teory
This morning, after I posted my reply,  I received in my uni.  "grants" 
mailbox the following attempt at U.S. global Whiteness empire making 
using religion.  I say, deconstruct this in any USWS course on religion 
and feminist theory.


Chithra KarunaKaran

Sponsor: Department of State
Program Number: 78706
Title: Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law in Non-Middle
Eastern Countries With Significant Muslim Populations                   

E-mail: ericksonpc  AT  state.gov
Web Site: http://www.grants.gov/search/search.do?mode=VIEW&oppId=9375
Program URL: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/65963.htm
 The sponsor provides support for projects that promote democracy,
human rights and the rule of law in non-Middle Eastern countries with
significant Muslim Populations including countries in Africa (Cote
d?Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea, and Nigeria), Central Asia (Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan),
Azerbaijan, Russia (N. Caucasus only), South East Asia (Indonesia,
Malaysia, and the Philippines), and South Asia (Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan).

Deadline(s): 06/06/2006

Link to full program description:
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 08:29:19 -0400
From: Janell Hobson <jhobson AT ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
Thank you to Chithra and others for replying to my inquiry so quickly both
on and off this list.

I received quite a number of suggestions already, and I'll be sifting
through the many different topics and texts recommended, from womanist
theology to precolonial recoveries of women's religious leadership roles
to feminist spirituality (from neopagan to Buddhist) and theologians such
as Judith Plaskow and Mary Daly.

However, I am intrigued by Chithra's concern about the use of religion in
nation-state formation (in particular, religious imperialism).  Although
she only recommended one text - a Salon article about Condoleeza Rice -
and the deconstruction of a grant to study Muslims, law, and democracy, I
would especially like to find out whether or not there are recommended
academic books or essays that critique religious imperialism (including
cultural appropriations) and sexual ethics from a feminist, critical race,
and/or postcolonial perspective.

Thanks again for your recommendations!  This time, if you want to post to
the list rather than privately, that's fine with me since I have received
some private requests to share my information.

I also want to clarify that I'm looking for a text (essay, book, even
film) that I could incorporate in an interdisciplinary graduate seminar on
feminist theory.  The focus of my class is NOT on religion, but I wanted
to include religious discourse to critique alongside other issues, such as
sexual politics, human rights, social justice models, knowledge and power,
historical consciousness, literary theory, feminist art, environmental
justice, feminist pedagogy, etc.

Janell Hobson
jhobson  AT  albany.edu
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 08:46:04 -0400
From: Susan Clark-Cook <SCLARK AT BENTLEY.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
Hello Janell and all;  Actually I would be very interested in that kind of 
information as well, I teach Psych of  Women and have always wanted to add 
a module or component on women's spirituality and the meaning it has in 
women's lives.  If you don't want to post to the general list, would you 
mind Janell, sharing the info you get with me back channel as well?  I too 
am always looking for ways to update and keep fresh my subject, if not for 
the women I teach, for myself as well, and have always found it hard to 
find a good text that covers all I want to cover but is also current and 
up to date; I work in a business college and the students are very, very 
fact and statistics oriented and constantly challenge me that my info is 
out of date (even though most of it I am sure is not)
Does any one else find that a problem?  And are there any really good, 
fresh texts for use in Psych of women? 
You can also answer me back channel, SClark  AT  Bentley.edu

 "For if the mind can imagine it, the mind can make it so..."

 Dr. Susan Clark-Cook
 Clinical Psychologist
 Counseling and Student Development
 Adjunct Assistant Professor, Natural and Applied Science
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 11:21:00 EDT
From: Judith Laura <Ashira AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
I am replying to this onlist because from time to time various people
on the list ask the same (or very similar) question. Those of us who
have been working in the women and religion field for some time are
sometimes chagrined that women's studies teachers are not more
familiar with the intersection of politics and religion, particularly
as it effects, suppresses, and represses women.

Speaking for myself, I would encourage all who teach women's studies
to include at least some material on women and religion in your
curricula. This is made even more urgent today, imo, because it seems
to me that the backsliding of achievements since the 1960s in securing
equal rights for women is threatened by the of resurgence various
forms of religious fundamentalism. So to do my part, I will post, as I
have in the past, that there is a bibliography on my website that
includes, Goddess, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and other
viewpoints. The bibliography is divided into nonfiction and
fiction. There are even a few video suggestions at the bottom of the
list.  The url is http://goddess.judithlaura.com/biblio.html

Judith Laura
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 11:30:13 -0400
From: Rudy Leon <leonre AT POTSDAM.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
There is also a database of WS and Religion syllabi at 
http://www.umbc.edu/cwit/syl_rel.html. The syllabi are really useful for 
finding books used in courses, with some context.

Rudy Leon
Collection Development & Instruction Librarian
College Libraries                
SUNY Potsdam                  email:  leonre  AT  potsdam.edu
44 Pierrepont Avenue          
Potsdam, NY 13676-2294          
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 09:28:19 -0700
From: Naomi Lloyd <nlloyd AT SHAW.CA>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
A few more recent resources relating to contemporary politics of religion 
that may be useful are:

-  Saba Mahmood's *Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist 
Subject* (2005)
- A chapter from Mahmood Mamdani's *Good Muslim, Bad Muslim* (2005) entitled 
"Culture talk; or, how not to talk about Islam and politics" in which 
Mamdani compares the rise of fundamentalism in the U.S. in the early 
twentieth century and its relation to the nation state to Islamic 
fundamentalism and its political articulations.

The October 2004 issue of the Journal of Religion addresses developments in 
the historiography of western feminism and religion:
- Hollywood, Amy.  "Gender, Agency, and the Divine in Religious 
- Braude, Ann. "A Religious Feminist-Who Can Find Her? Historiographical 
Challenges from the National Organization for Women."
- Strasser, Ulrike.  "Early Modern Nuns and the Feminist Politics of 
The essays are followed by responses by three other scholars working in the 
area of feminism and religion (including Mahmood), which makes for some 
interesting reading.

- The introduction of Joy Dixon" *Divine Feminine: Theosophy and Feminism in 
England* for one of the most nuanced, Foucauldian approaches to theoretical 
issues in writing histories of western feminism that take religion into 
account. This piece and the Braude essay address the exclusion of the 
religious affiliations of western feminists from histories of western 

Some of this material may be too advanced for students in undergraduate 
courses, but it is a must for those teaching the courses,

Naomi Lloyd
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 12:29:22 -0400
From: Gaile Pohlhaus <gaile.pohlhaus AT VILLANOVA.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
Originally published in 1979 /Womanspirit Rising /edited by Carol P. 
Christ and Judith Plaskow has a 1992 edition.  It contains a plethora of 
feminist positions on spirituality and many of the founding mothers of 
the genre.  It starts with Valerie Saiving's "The Human Situation" which 
is, in my opinion, the best critique of Christian spirituality in essay 

Gaile M. Pohlhaus
Villanova University (retired)
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 13:01:14 -0400
From: Laura Gillman. <lgillman AT VT.EDU>
Subject: feminism and religion
Women of color and their communities have historically relied on communal
religious understandings as a source of empowerment. I am thinking more
concretely of womanism and mujerista theological movement.  When foregrounding
women and religion, it is important to bring in not just a given text and add
it to our syllabi, but rather examine the cultural and political contexts in
which given texts and  movements emerge and also explore the ways in such a
politics can impact feminist thought.

Within Women's Studies contexts, it has been my experience that when the topic
of women and religion is raised, it is pushed into another category, elsewhere,
outside of feminism. There is feminism and then there is feminist theology.
Could this be because theological underpinnings of women's empowerment derive
from women of color and their communities most frequently?
Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 14:36:11 -0600
From: "Grotzky, Marilyn" <Marilyn.Grotzky AT CUDENVER.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminist theory
When I finished a recent intro WS class, the students said that if they
could make one change (and they had come to like each other so much that
they organized themselves to meet during the summer after the class was
over), they would encourage more information and discussion about
spirituality as well as religion.  They thought of religion as a
challenge and spirituality as a source of strength.  They also
recognized that the two could overlap.

Marilyn Grotzky
Auraria Library
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 11:41:08 +0800
From: ********* <tigerli AT MYDESTINY.NET>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
This might be of interest to you and your students: Graham Ward. /True 
Religion. /Blackwell Manifestos. Blackwell Publishing, 2003.

Josefa Schriever-Baldoz, Ph.D.
Department of English and Comparative Literature
College of Arts and Letters
University of the Philippines Diliman
jbschriever  AT  up.edu.ph
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 10:36:38 -0400
From: Sandra Emmachild <emmachs AT SUNYSUFFOLK.EDU>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
You might also look at Carol Christ's "She Who Is," for feminist
spirituality, feminist philosophy, and ecofeminism.  Sandra Emmachild,
emmachs  AT  sunysuffolk.edu
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 10:03:22 -0500
From: Eloise A. Buker <bukerea AT SLU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson worked very well in my graduate
feminist theory class for all the students some of whom were not very
interested in religion.  It draws nicely from issues of representation and
the postmodern.  Perhaps there is another book by this title that Christ
wrote.  I don't know of it.

Eloise Buker
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 10:23:51 -0600
From: "Grotzky, Marilyn" <Marilyn.Grotzky AT CUDENVER.EDU>
Subject: Re: Religion and Christ/Johnson books
-----Original Message-----

From: Women's Studies List [mailto:WMST-L AT LISTSERV.UMD.EDU] On Behalf Of
Eloise A. Buker
Sent: Friday, May 12, 2006 9:03 AM
Is there a difference between the 10th anniversary edition (2002) and
the earlier edition of She Who Is?
There is a 2004 book by Carol Christ called She Who Changes.
Marilyn Grotzky
Auraria Library
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 09:31:03 -0700
From: pjkafka <pjkafka AT EARTHLINK.NET>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
For some texts that contain spiritual and religious alternatives from
feminist perspectives and written from outside of the Euro-American

1.  Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera  (essays)

2.  Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek (short stories)

3.  Zora Neale Hurston, Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and
    Jamaica (with photographs of voodoo priestesses at work) (essays)

4. Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban (one of the daughters becomes a
   voodoo priestess) (novel)

5.  Rosario Ferre (Puertoriquena) The Youngest Doll (short stories). 

5.  Bharati Mukherjee, Jasmine (after rape Jasmine transforms herself
    into Kali) (novel)

6.  Amy Tan, The Kitchen God's Wife (mother creates feminist
    alternative goddess to The Kitchen God) (novel)

7.  Maitreyi Devi, The Breast, with intro. by Gayatri Chakravorty
    Spivak (short stories).

8.  Spivak's work may be too difficult to read for graduate students.
     But she is a brilliant, passionate transnational feminist, great
     on the complexities of colonial and post-colonial interference on
     Indian religious customs and culture like sati.

9.  Toni Morrison, Sula 

Dr. Phillipa Kafka
Professor Emerita, English
Kean University
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 13:47:20 EDT
From: Joan Griscom <Griscomjl AT AOL.COM>
Subject: religion and feminisn: C. Christ & E. Johnson
Amazon.com: She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World ...by Carol 
P. Christ, Carol Christ "He is an old white man with a long white beard, ... 
She Who Is : The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse by ...

Two books, with similar titles, easy to confuse, one by Christ, one by 
Johnson.   Let's hear it for Google.

Joan Griscom
griscomjl  AT  aol.com
Lexington, MA
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 14:20:45 EDT
From: Judith Laura <Ashira AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: She Who Changes/Carol P. Christ
> There is a 2004 book by Carol Christ called She Who Changes

The hardback Palgrave Macmillan book is dated 2003.  This book may be of 
particular interest in an academic environment as it compares and extends Goddess 
thealogy to process theology.

Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 17:08:11 EDT
From: Judith Laura <Ashira AT AOL.COM>
Subject: Re: religion and feminisn: C. Christ & E. Johnson
> Amazon.com: She Who Changes: Re-imagining the Divine in the World ...by 
> Carol 
> P. Christ, Carol Christ "He is an old white man with a long white beard, ... 
> She Who Is : The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse by ...
> www.amazon.com/gp/product/book-citations/1403960836
> Two books, with similar titles, easy to confuse, one by Christ, one by 
> Johnson.   Let's hear it for Google.

um, well, the quote following Christ's title ("He is an old white man with a 
long white beard") is very misleading, unless you know to read it ironically.

Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 17:18:11 -0400
From: Luis Gutierrez <LTG214B AT VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
Hello Janell, Chithra et al ...

Feminist theology is basically a decontruction of religious patriarchy. 
    For some research notes on how religious patriarchy interacts with 
secular patriarchy and, in particular, global issues of human solidarity 
and ecological sustainability, you may want to take a look at my 
newsletter.  The link to the temporary home page is shown below.  The 
May issue will be posted soon:



Luis T. Gutierrez, Ph.D., P.E.
Solidarity & Sustainability Newsletter
LTG214B  AT  verizon.net
Date: Fri, 12 May 2006 21:00:39 -0400
From: Sandra Emmachild <emmachs AT SUNYSUFFOLK.EDU>
Subject: Re: Religion and feminist theory
Oooooops!  It's "She Who Changes," by Christ.  I had them confused.  
Sandra Emmachs  AT  sunysuffolk.edu
Date: Sat, 13 May 2006 14:34:16 -0700
From: Max Dashu <maxdashu AT LMI.NET>
Subject: Re: religion and feminism
Some other very interesting resources are:

Barbara Tedlock's The Woman in the Shaman's Body: Reclaiming the 
Feminine in Religion and Medicine (2005). An anthropologist whose 
grandmother was an Ojibwa medicine woman, she has studied with 
shamans in Guatemala, Mongolia, and elsewhere. (This one is a 
stimulating and accessible read that my students have enjoyed.)

Two books by Luisah Teish, Jambalaya and Jump Up! emphasize the 
African content in African-American culture. Teish, a priestess in 
the Yoruba tradition and a committed feminist, is also a gifted and 
highly charismatic speaker, by the way. She can be contacted through 

Barbara Mann's Iroquoian Women: The Gantowisas. (2000) offers a 
Seneca woman's exposition of her people's spiritual beliefs and 
practices, amidst a trenchant history of the Haudenosaunee that 
emphasizes the power of the gantowisas ("matrons").

Kaplan, Flora Edouwaye S, ed. Queens, Queen Mothers, Priestesses, and 
Power: case studies in African gender, New York: New York Academy of 
Sciences, 1997. (Some great articles, emphasis on Nigeria.)

Brewer, Carolyn, Holy Confrontation: Religion, Gender and Sexuality 
in the Philippines, 1521-1685, Manila: Institute of Women's Studies, 
2001 (I believe a US edition is out now; this one looks at the 
repression of the babayan (female shamans/priestesses) by Spanish 
missionaries and colonists.

Max Dashu
Suppressed Histories Archives
Women in Global Perspective

New poster: Our Reproductive Rights!
Beautiful, multi-issue, empowering 11 x 17 laser print
Date: Sat, 13 May 2006 18:47:27 -0400
From: Stephanie Levine <swlevine AT VERIZON.NET>
Subject: Re: religion and feminism
Hi Everyone,

I've been reading this thread with interest and just thought I'd  

I talk quite a bit about the feminist research methods I used,  
particularly clinical interviewing: an interview technique that  
places the interviewee's thoughts, desires, and dreams at the center.  
Carol Gilligan helped to revolutionize this technique, and she wrote  
a foreword to the book.

I consider myself very much a feminist, and was frankly shocked to  
find that many girls benefited from Hasidic culture. Hasidic life  
separates males and females outside the family, and many girls seemed  
to thrive in their single-sex schools, camps, and social lives. They  
weren't forced to become sexual at young ages; they didn't feel  
judged according to their sexual attractiveness as they walked around  
their school or reveled at their single sex parties. Girls with every  
possible body type became socially popular and powerful--very unusual  
in most American settings. Many of the girls frankly acted like the  
most impish, wild boys at school, and I think this was largely  
because there were no boys around to usurp these roles. Of course,  
research at single-sex prep schools and colleges also uncovers  
benefits for many of the students, but the difference here is that  
the separation is more sweeping (girls at single-sex high schools/ 
colleges will almost always socialize with boys outside of school).

Of course, many girls suffer deeply in such a strict culture--and  
frankly they are often the most intriguing, sensitive people. The  
"rebels" were some of my favorite characters in the book. I am  
certainly not saying that Hasidic life is any kind of utopia. I  
myself did not become any more observant after my year among Hasidic  
teenagers. But the book has pushed my students into fascinating  
debates about gender roles and has forced them to grapple in  
provocative ways with an undoubtedly patriarchal system that carries  
some unexpected benefits. To be clear, I certainly do not condone a  
system that doesn't allow women to be rabbis, and that forces  
heterosexual marriage and child rearing on everyone. But I must  
respect a world where two girls were utterly shocked to overhear a  
boy from another community shout out his assessments of various  
girls' physical attractiveness. They'd never heard of such a thing.  
Beautiful...no? My ideal social world would *not* be single-sex, but  
I doubt this sort of freedom can ever exist in coed settings...

Stephanie Wellen Levine
swlevine  AT  verizon.net
Date: Sun, 14 May 2006 11:12:45 -0400
From: Judith Lorber <jlorber AT RCN.COM>
Subject: Religion and feminism
With regard to Stephanie Levine's message about Hasidic girls (see below) --

The problem with the protection of Hasidic women is the same as the
protection of Islamic women. It keeps them out of the visible public sector,
and deprives them of any public social power. They get educated and many
have jobs and run businesses -- and have 15 to 20 children -- but see this
article for what their place in their society really is (invisible).


Judith Lorber, Ph.D.
Professor Emerita
Graduate School and Brooklyn College, CUNY
jlorber  AT  rcn.com
Imagine ... the world without gender
>From the Israel Feminist Forum list

           Rabbis get woman-free flight

Two leading rabbis buy all first class tickets, ask El Al to only post male
stewards on flight so they do not have to see women on way to America Haim

          A modest first class flight: Two leading rabbis set to fly to the
United States concluded an agreement with El Al that would see them enjoy a
woman-free and movie-free flight.

   The Gerrer Rebbe, a Hassidic leader who will fly abroad on Sunday, asked
El Al that no air stewardesses be aboard the flight.

El Al complied with the rabbi's request and on Sunday's flight to the United
States only males will look after passengers.

The Gerrer Rebbe and Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman, 93, another leading rabbi,
will fly in a historic journey to visit American Jewish communities.

The journey has been exciting the ultra-Orthodox public for six months as it
involves the rare cooperation of the two spiritual leaders.

During the visit the rabbis will seek to raise funds for married yeshiva
students attending advanced Judaic studies programs.

United Torah Judaism enlisted its six MKs to bid goodbye to the two leaders
at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday.

The rabbis will land in Los Angles where the Jewish community is eagerly
awaiting their arrival. The rabbis will visit Jewish communities along the
west coast.

The visit's highlight is an event that will be attended by 10,000 people. A
private jet will fly the rabbis to Montreal and Toronto.

The Gerrer Rebbe will fly to Israel from Canada, while Steinman will visit
Central and South America before returning to Israel.
   The rabbis asked that the flight from Israel adhere to the strictest
standards of modesty. Their aides agreed with El Al officials that they will
not have to see women during flight.

The rabbis bought all first class tickets on the flight to make sure no
businesswomen are on board.

It was also decided that no films will be screened during the flight.
Moreover, the backs of first class seats will be covered with plastic so
that the rabbis won't even have to see the television screens.

Responding to the report, El Al said: "We do not report on our costumers out
of respect for their privacy."
Date: Mon, 15 May 2006 07:28:12 -0400
From: Chithra KarunaKaran <ckarunakaran03 AT NETSCAPE.NET>
Subject: Re: religion and feminism
I read Stephanie Levine's impeccable methodology and admirably reasoned 
analysis of Hasidic girlhood as an instance of **lived 
intersectionality**. As a woman raised to negogiate within and across 
competing and contesting multiethnic, sexually segregated community 
identities, whose main characteristic is their ***distinctness** not 
their superiority, within the vibrant postcolonial nation-state, I can 
relate to those Hasidic girls as if they were those same impish and 
powerful sisters that Levine describes and that I knew growing up and 
indeed was one among them. If we can resonate with certain aspects of 
such lives within macrostructure (and the Hasidim are certainly an 
ethnic minority entitled to state protection) while remaining flexibly 
questioning of certain other aspects, then I think we can speak from a 
thickly descriptive and grounded humanist feminism. I am happy to note 
that the Hasidim are flourishing everywhere including the Williamsburg 
neighborhood in Brooklyn, just a few subway train stops away. Lived 
intersectionality demands such encounters, before some criticize, not 

  It's interesting that Levine initially posted under the above subject 
and her post was then (hijacked?) into a discussion on "seclusion" with 
the linear conclusion, among some, that the West is the best, the West 
vs the rest. That view is morally and ethically bankrupt given the 
loaded evidence of history which some academic feminists, particularly 
some white academic feminists, conveniently ignore, placing a new 
generation of students at intellectual and moral risk. Fortunately 
others posted to decry the missionizing zeal of the U.S. (and some USWS 
white feminists are complicit with  resource-appropriating U.S. 
macrostructure) in "saving" population sub-groups who live within 
sovereign nation states, and therefore outside of the purview of the 
U.S., including its academies.

 Chithra Karunakaran
Date: Mon, 15 May 2006 10:26:33 -0400
From: Janell Hobson <jhobson AT ALBANY.EDU>
Subject: Re: religion and feminism
Hello Everyone,

Thank you to everyone who has contributed their knowledge about texts and
discourses on the subject of religion and feminist theory.  I especially
want to thank Stephanie May, managing editor of the Journal of Feminist
Religious Studies, who directed me to an invaluable roundtable discussion
on the subject of "Feminist Studies in Religion and The*logy
In-Between Nationalism and Globalization," with lead-in author Elisabeth
Schussler Fiorenza (in Spring 2005 vol 21, 1).  Another helpful roundtable
discussion in the journal is titled "Must I Be a Womanist?", with lead-in
author Monica A. Coleman (in Spring 2006 vol 22, 1).

What is particularly helpful about these roundtable discussions is the way
in which feminist scholars are seriously challenged to move beyond the
boxes and paradigms from which we operate, whether in the context of
nationalism and globalization (in the former discussion) or heterosexism
and Christocentrism (in the latter discussion).

With regards to the new discussion that has developed from my initial
thread (the current discussion on the "praising of seclusion"), I
definitely see the pitfalls that author Fiorenza warns against reoccurring
in feminist discourse (at least the kind perpetrated on this listserv).

True, we can argue, as Daphne Patai does, that U.S. women's lives are
relatively "better" (at least economically and it depends which
communities you refer to) than others, but to make this claim is to also
reinforce the racist and imperialist structures that enabled our "better"
lives.  For example, how much of our "better" situation is shored up by
continued U.S.-led exploitation of both the natural and human resources in
nonwestern countries, as well as in our own?  How many historians, as in
the case of Louise Michele Newman's White Women's Rights: The Racial
Origins of Feminism in the United States (a text I will be teaching in my
feminist theory seminar), have also documented the ways in which white,
western women have gained their "liberation" through these nation-building
efforts that perpetuated white supremacy and western imperliasm (an
argument also made by Native American feminist activist/theorist Andrea
Smith, which she outlines in her recently published book, Conquest: Sexual
Violence and American Indian Genocide, another text I intend to teach in
my feminist theory seminar)?

What was particularly helpful in Fiorenza's arguments is the way in which
feminist scholars (not just feminist thealogians) posit our arguments
against the patriarchal structure without also dismantling the other
pillars that have ensured its reign, thus calling for a more nuanced
critique, not just of white supremacy, capitalism, heteronormativity, etc.
but also of "nationalism" and the ways in which the Nation-State, as
Chithra has already argued on this list, has also relied on religious
domination, such as the way in which Christianity (past and present) has
been used to mobilize war efforts and demonize other cultures.

Even something as simple as listening to my students argue about the
inclusion or exclusion of religious holidays on our school calendar
requires that I also dismantle the Christocentrism (is that a word?) of
our school year (e.g. most students had never given a thought to the fact
that the year "2006" is a Christian year, no matter how secularized or
globalized our annual calendar has become).

Having said this, I appreciate learning from this list about the study of
Hasidic women and am stunned that this discussion, which began in earnest
to share knowledge and different perspectives, has now become a "West vs.
the Rest" debate.

Yet, even this debate is helpful (maybe even teachable) because it goes to
show that, unless U.S. feminists seriously dismantle the geopolitical
implications of our locations as we interrogate women's positions around
the globe, we will continue to perpetuate imperialist, Orientalist, and
white supremacist ideologies that render our theories and practices
useless for social change and, WORSE, available for political
appropriation (as was the case of the present administration which, to
justify the war on Afghanistan after September 11, relied on the feminist
discourse of oppressed burqa-covered women).  For a truly eye-opening
counter-narrative to this particular topic, I recommend Afghan-Canadian
journalist/filmmaker Nelofer Pazira's feature film "Kandahar" and her
follow-up documentary, "Return to Kandahar."

Thanks again to those of you who shared your knowledge on these issues.

Janell Hobson
jhobson  AT  albany.edu

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