Review of Bjorn Krondorfer (Ed.), Men and Masculinities in Christianity and Judaism: A Critical Reader
Gelfer, Joseph, Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality
Review of Bjorn Krondorfer (ed.), Men and Masculinities in Christianity and Judaism: A Critical Reader (London: SCM Press, 2009), xxi + 489 pp.
Bjorn Krondorfer locates this reader on the subject of men and masculinities in Christianity and Judaism within the discipline of "critical men's studies in religion" (p. xiii). The nomenclature used to define this subject is important. Historically, the term "men's studies in religion" has been popular, due in large part to the AAR group of the same name. A good number of those working in and around this group employ very progressive political, theoretical and methodological frameworks; however, there is some truth to the pro-feminist critique that "men's studies" can accommodate a certain "backlash" mentality couched within politically ambiguous terms such as "gender equality" and "men's rights." Krondorfer is aware of this problem, and the use of the term "critical" makes clear the position of the book: "a reflective and empathic stance toward men as individual and communal beings trying to make sense of their lives within the different demands put upon them by society and religion, but it must also engage these issues with critical sensitivity and scholarly discipline in the context of gender-unjust systems" (p. xvii; my emphasis).
Krondorfer's context of gender-unjust systems makes for a far broader reader than one might expect, which has two interesting and important effects: first, it extends the boundaries of "men's studies in religion"; second, it opens up the possibility to researchers of other related fields that they are also working within critical men's studies in religion. Following a trajectory that is both thematic and chronological, Part 1 of the reader, "In the Beginning" lays the foundations, demonstrating the historical debt critical men's studies in religion owes to studies of feminism and sexuality, via Mary Daly, John Boswell, Michel Foucault and James Nelson. Part 2, "A New Field Takes Shape" looks at some early formulations of men's studies in religion (while blurring the gay/straight binary) via Stephen Boyd, J. Michael Clark and Laurel Schneider. Part 3, "Theorizing and Theologizing Alternative Masculinities" broadens the field further into theology and sexuality via Daniel Boyarin, Graham Ward, Philip Culbertson, Jay Johnson, Robert Goss and Stephen Moore; Part 4 "Biblical Musings" does a similar job with a biblical twist via Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, Dale Martin, Ken Stone and Jeffrey Staley. Part 5, "Masculine Ideals in the Jewish and Christian Traditions" offers an historical turn via Mathew Kuefler, Michael Satlow, Virginia Burrus, Mark Jordan, Sean Gill and Charles Lippy. Part 6, "Spirituality and the Intimate Body" offers further discussion of sexuality via David Brakke, Harry Brod, Donald Capps, Scott Haldeman, Robert Long and Donald Boisvert. Part 7, "Gender, Justice, and Community" concludes by laying down the gauntlet of personal political responsibility via Krondorfer, Garth Kasimu Baker-Fletcher, Miguel De La Torre, Andre Musskopf and James Newton Poling. …