Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology

Article excerpt

Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology. By Kwok Pni-lan. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005. xi + 252 pp. $24.95 (paper).

Kwok Pui-lan's hook, if we give it the reading it deserves, has the potential to change the way we do theology. It also contributes-though this is not its explicit agenda-to the growing literature addressing the history of the church's intimate relationship to colonialism.

The colonizer and the colonized share a history. We are shaped by each other and, Kwok reminds us, we create images of one another, but fail to view our dependency on one another and to analyze the dynamics of power that have contributed to both our identities and our ways of knowing. "How can we couceptualize the complicated process of cultural encounter between the colonizers and the colonized?" (p. 41). Kwok asks this in a discussion of Asia, but the question serves equally well as a summary of a goal of postcolonial thought.

Though biblical scholars and scholars of religion have begun to make use of postcolonial theories, theologians have not paid much attention to the field. liven those who employ the categories of race, gender, and socioeconomic class have neglected the role of colonial empires in the formation of Christian theologies and of the field of theology itself. With a few exceptions, academic and ecclesial theology have also tended to ignore theology's androcentric bias and to foreground women only rarely as theological and moral subjects. The very history of colonialism-and of its Christianities-is gendered.

Feminist theology and postcolonial thought have moved on almost parallel tracks. Even Third World women theologians have not often made use of postcolonial theory. In this first full-length book devoted to the subject. Kwok places postcolonial and feminist thinkers and theologies in critical conversation with one another and offers this conversation, interpreted, to the theological world.

A Chinese Christian from Hong Kong, Kwok, a U.S. resident once identified primarily as an Asian feminist theologian, "increasingly embraces her diasporic existence" (p. 25). Privileged by virtue of her teaching location-she is the William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School-she also faces the challenges of being a woman of color. Her original home, a former colony, is also firmly part of the industrialized and post-industrial world.

The first section of Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology addresses the subject of postcolonial imagination and applies it to biblical interpretation. The chapters on the Bible might have been as fitting for the second section; they serve, either way, as the bridge between Kwok's careful explanation of postcolonial thought and her elaboration on the methods and themes of postcolonial feminist theology. …