Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference

Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference

Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference

Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference

Synopsis

In the early years of contesting patriarchy in the academy and religious institutions, feminist theology often presented itself as a unified front, a sisterhood. The term "feminist theology," however, is misleading. It suggests a singular feminist purpose driven by a unified female culturalidentity that struggles as a cohesive whole against patriarchal dominance. Upon closer inspection, the voice of feminist theology is in fact a chorus of diverging perspectives, each informed by a variety of individual and communal experiences, and an embattled scholarly field, marked by the effectsof privilege and power imbalances. This complexity raises an important question: How can feminist theologians respect the irreducible diversity of women's experiences and unmask entrenched forms of privilege in feminist theological discourse? In Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference, Margaret D. Kamitsuka urges the feminist theological community to examine critically its most deeply held commitments, assumptions, and goals-especially those of feminist theologians writing from positions of privilege as white or heterosexualwomen. Focusing on women's experience as portrayed in literature, biblical narrative, and ethnographic writing, Kamitsuka examines the assumptions of feminist theology regarding race and sexuality. She proposes theoretical tools that feminist theologians can employ to identify and hopefully avoidthe imposition of racial or sexual hegemony, thus providing invaluable complexity to the movement's identity, and ultimately contributing to current and future Christian theological issues. Blending poststructuralist and postcolonial theoretical resources with feminist and queer concerns, Feminist Theology and the Challenge of Difference makes constructive theological proposals, ranging from sin to christology. The text calls feminist theologians to a more rigorous self-criticalapproach as they continue to shape the changing face of Christian theological discourse.

Excerpt

Feminist theology was born in struggle and continues to experience the pangs of birthing new spiritual images and discourses of resistance that empower women. the first wave of feminist scholarship in religion originated in women’s attempts in the 1960s and 1970s to challenge sexism in religious and academic venues long dominated by men. Because the battle against patriarchal attitudes and practices in the Christian tradition became an early defining factor, feminist theologians have been well acquainted with conflict. Since the 1980s, another arena of contestation opened up—this time, closer to home, so to speak. the discipline began to experience its own internal fractures, with the result that one can no longer simply say “feminist theology” and mean a more or less unified discipline based on the assumption of a united sisterhood standing oppositionally to patriarchy. Christian feminist theology is increasingly recognized for what it has de facto been: a scholarly field dominated by white, middleclass, first-world, heterosexual women. Womanist, mujerista, lesbian, Asian American, two-thirds-world, and other self-named women’s theologies are rapidly developing their own discourses, agendas, constituencies—and fractures as well. Thus, feminist theology, with relatively new institutional standing within the field of Christian theology, has become divided—and enriched, from my perspective—by difference. the extent to which this fracturing will be enriching depends ultimately not on the multicultural good intentions of those in dominant positions; rather, it depends on the extent to which feminist . . .

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