Women and Religion

Article excerpt

WOMEN AND RELIGION Review of Márta Bodó (ed.), Women and Religion, (Cluj: Verbum, 2009).

Key words: Women, religion, Theology, feminism, Central and Eastern Europe, postcommunism, postmodernity, Christian (Orthodox) Tradition.

One of the things most of us tend to appreciate more and more in today's academic happenings such as workshops, conferences or symposia is their warm, natural and low-keyed, yet based on arguments tone.1 The echo of this modest and open tone was one of the first strong impressions which seized my attention from the introductory pages of the book entitled Women and Religion edited in English by Márta Bodó and published in Cluj-Napoca by Verbum Publishing House, in 2009. The group of articles collected together in this book may well stand as the public chronicle of a symposium which gathered competent professionals, active in the academic field of Feminism and Theology. The symposium, made public also by disseminating its results through this book, was one of the regional conferences organized every two years by the European Society of Women in Theological Research (ESWTR)2 in the Eastern and Central European countries. There are at least four reasons which explain the option of the European Society of Women in Theological Research to organize conferences in this part of the world. The first argument is a social one and resides in the fact that these countries had - and still have, as some of the articles from the book demonstrate pertinently - a tradition of highly patriarchic social structures. The second, religious one, strongly related to the first, consist of the fact that if in the past, within these religious traditions, it was unusual for a woman to become a researcher in the field of theology today, even if there are few cases of women theologians, it is still very hard for her professional voice to "gain" respect within the maledominated academic field of theology. But even if this respect is "earned" in the field of theology, a woman cannot, by any means, hold a position in church structures. The third argument is a historical one and it is related to the fact that these countries have suffered at least forty years of political oppression which manifested also by marginalizing not only religion's social role and its functions, but also the field of theology as such. The last reason for organizing this series of conferences in this part of Europe is a rather political or strategic one, based on the disparity between the ways in which in Western Europe one can already talk about a tradition of women's involvement in scholarly religious research and the fact that in countries from Central and Eastern Europe women were excluded from theological research. Therefore, the necessity to reduce this "clash" of social and academic practices regarding the roles of women within a unified Europe, combined with the need to mark and celebrate the recent integration of Bulgaria and Romania in the European Union, the 2008 conference of the European Society of Women in Theological Research took place in Transylvania and its theme was: The Contribution of Women in Shaping the Spiritual Features of a Unified Europe. Past Experiences that Shape the Present and the Future. In other words, the collection of papers presented within this framework, heterogeneous in perspective, approach or even methodology, aim all at conceiving a "modus operandi" for a public statement regarding the ways in which female perspectives in the field of theology - but not exclusively in this field - that would contribute to shaping and developing a common European spiritual identity. By offering viewpoints from various fields of research, the articles comprised in this book cover a whole range of themes regarding women's relation with religion. Thus, the discussions on different religious representations of women in art, i.e., iconography, or in hagiography, the researches on women's new religious movements such as Brahma Kumaris3 and the critical views on the status of women in religious structures and in theological scholarly research, all offer a wide feminine actual perspective upon religion and spirituality. …


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