Feminist Re-Visions of Religion

full name / name of organization: 
Julie Rajan (Rutgers University) and Sanja Bahun-Radunovic (University of Essex)

Feminist Re-Visions of Religion explores how women are re-interpreting religious traditions (oral, written, and performance) fundamental to their societies to promote their concerns and interests as women.

Such changes are evidenced among, for example, Catholic women who are challenging the Church's privileging of masculine leadership by becoming women priests. Catholic women are also challenging the Church's stance on contraceptives and homosexuality—issues critical to the moral framework of Catholicism. In 2012, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the largest organization of U.S. Catholic nuns, was reprimanded by the Church for promoting radical feminist ideologies about use of contraception and homosexuality. Likewise, the international women's organization Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) challenges traditionally heretofore masculine approaches to Islam that prioritize masculinity by, for example, publishing texts that stress Muslim women's interpretations of the Koran. In a comparable trend in Hinduism, feminists, such as Madhu Kishwar, have re-interpreted iconic Hindu religious texts, such as the Ramayana, to stress that rather than condoning, or even glorifying, the Hindu deity Rama's harsh treatment of his wife Sita simply because he is a deity, that Hindus should interpret Rama's actions toward Sita as, in fact, the improper way to treat women.
That women are increasingly interpreting religious traditions in societies where men have typically taken on this role has interesting implications. In particular, there seem to be some shifts in women's agency and subjectivity in conservative religious contexts. On the one hand, women may assume an unsanctioned voice and visibility in their societies because they are actively participating in the development of religious rhetoric in their local spaces; as a result of this position, the scope and dynamics relating to women's rights in those spaces may alter. In turn, their involvement may impact positively on what roles women play in particularly religious societies and may have interesting implications for how femininity is being redefined by women in those contexts in terms of social and spiritual value. On the other hand, however, women's feminist revisions of religion may have negative repercussions on them individually and on women in their local spaces collectively. Or such work may even be seen as problematic by feminist standards as Saba Mahmood demonstrates in her research on the women-driven revival of Islam that strives to teach women about piety and docility and, hence, a more conservative approach to Islam that addresses the specific religious concerns of one group of women.
Inextricable from this inquiry is the issue of how women themselves define femininity and feminism in their local spaces, and what the relationship abides between their self-defining as women-activists and religious activists, and the traditional (and sometimes hegemonic) definitions of feminism that pervade their cultures. Feminist Re-Visions of Religion will also address the mechanics of this process in terms of which women are revisiting religious traditions, for what purposes, how they go about doing it, and how they (and if they can) manage propaganda and other publications about their work.

Feminist Re-Visions of Religion will include perspectives from women activists, policy-makers, and scholars dedicated to micro-level research about women's appropriations of religious texts in various geographies and traditions globally. The Editors will focus on how women's views may impact approaches and interpretations of religious traditions locally, regionally, and internationally. We believe this interdisciplinary collection will complement and extend your publishing interests.

The Editors are interested in papers exploring, among others, the following issues:

• The language and signs women use in reworking religious texts, oral traditions, or ritual performances to define and convey their understandings of women's position in their religious contexts;

• What topics women are addressing and those they choose not to address and why;

• Receptions of women's negotiations of religious traditions in their local communities, nationally, regionally, and internationally;

• How women are engaging in solidarity with women across national borders in re-dressing traditions;

• How women of socio-economically marginalized communities may appropriate differently the same religious texts, oral traditions, or ritual performances than more privileged women in their societies, and how their work might surface stronger solidarity with or act to separate them further from women in other communities in their local spaces;

• How notions of cultural relevance may problematize how and whether women can appropriate religious texts;

• How women's appropriations may surface complex definitions of femininity and feminism in their local spaces in contradistinction to Western ideas of feminism;

• How women negotiate cultural traditions that promote violence against women that have been conflated with religious traditions;

• What women do with their interpretations of religious texts, oral traditions, or ritual performances—How do they organize themselves as activists locally? Do they attempt to educate other women (and men) in their communities about their perspectives?; and

• How women in nations that have not signed and/or ratified major human rights conventions impacts how they continue to articulate and negotiate their ideas of rights through cultural and legal systems in their local spaces.

• Women's revisions of religious myths through aesthetic productions

Full papers will be due January 2014.

Please send CV and 500-word abstracts by September 1, 2013, to:

Julie Rajan (vgjulie@rci.rutgers.edu)
and Sanja Bahun-Radunovic (sbahun@essex.ac.uk)