With this issue, Judith Plaskow is back in the saddle as coeditor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion after an interval of seventeen years. She finds, with pleasure, that the Journalhas a much more developed infrastructure than the one in place when she stepped down after its tenth anniversary—a testimony to the extraordinary leadership of Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and the group of wonderful coeditors with whom she has worked. The fact that the JFSR is no longer self-published but has moved to Indiana University Press means that some of the functions formerly carried out in-house have been taken over by the press. Thanks to the ongoing support of Drew University Theological School, we now have a submissions editor who corresponds with authors and reviewers. With the development of the FSR, Inc., website (http://www.fsrinc.org), we now have open journal software that allows us to process submissions and reviews electronically. Members of the editorial board function as poetry and religion and politics editors. We have established and regularized the Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholar Awards to encourage the next generation of feminist scholarship. And despite the fact that we publish only semiannually, we have attempted to make its content more timely and more connected to current feminist struggles by including editorials and more articles on religion and politics. All this frees the editors to spend more time thinking about substance rather than constantly having to focus on the details of getting out each issue. Although we face the pressures common to all print media at this historic moment, Elisabeth becomes Senior Editor at a time when the Journal is in excellent shape internally. And Judith returns temporarily as coeditor to help lay the groundwork for a strong future for JFSR.
The current issue illustrates very well the ability of the Journal to respond to current events and initiatives and also to bring new feminist critical questions to historical texts and materials. The first two articles, “Mary Baker Eddy, the Woman Question, and Christian Salvation” and “Sexism in Practice” are joint first-place winners of the Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholar Award (NSA). Essays eligible for the award go through the normal review process and then, if accepted, are sent to a subcommittee of the board that evaluates and ranks them. Thanks to Zayn Kassam, Karen Pechilis, and Ellen Umansky for serving on the NSA committee this year, and congratulations to co-winners Amy Voorhees and Conor Kelly for their excellent and very different essays that together capture some of the range of topics found in the JFSR. Voorhees suggests a new direction for feminist historiography on Mary Baker Eddy. She points out that much of the feminist scholarship on Eddy depicts her as an “ambiguous” feminist—an important role model for other women but one with a complicated and shifting relationship to women’s rights. Questioning the value of moving Eddy back and forth on an anachronistically defined feminist spectrum, Voorhees places Eddy’s gendered work within her larger religious project. She argues that Eddy’s relationship to the Woman Question “is emphatic and radical, yet qualified and ultimately subsumed by her soteriology” (5). Kelly’s article takes as “text” not a historical figure or body of literature but the “hookup culture” that is a common feature of contemporary college life. After carefully laying out the central characteristics of this culture, Kelly shows how each of them is problematic from a feminist perspective. The last section of the article presents important tools from feminist theology and ethics that might help college students become more aware and critical of the sexism of hookup culture so they might begin to find ways of relating to each other that are more conducive to human flourishing.
The articles by Eunice Karanja Kamaara, Elisabeth T. Vasko, and Jeanine Viau and by Gail Labovitz mirror those of our award winners in that the first focuses on a contemporary issue and the second on a historical text. In “Listening and Speaking as Two Sides of the Same Coin,” Kamaara, Vasko, and Viau explore the complexities of feminist intercultural cooperation by examining Kenya Immersion 2009, a project that brought together eight white U.S. and (black) Kenyan feminists for a month of joint study and fieldwork. Highly attuned to the impact of colonialism and present-day imperial realities on such encounters, the authors focus on three key moments in the course of the month that illuminate some of the difficulties and tensions in face-to-face intercultural interactions, as well as the ways that they require negotiating such dualisms as colonized/collaborative space, speaking/listening, and insider/outsider. They suggest that Obioma Nnaemeka’s concept of “nego-feminism”—a feminism of negotiation as well as “no ego”—captures the process of Kenya Immersion and holds a broader relevance for intercultural feminist collaboration. Labovitz’s article “More Slave Women, More Lewdness” looks at rabbinic acceptance of slavery and asks what it means for Jewish understandings of sexuality and sexual ethics. The fact that rabbinic texts discuss and legislate for a slave society is often taken for granted by scholars, Labovitz points out, which means that the issues that follow from recognizing rabbinic culture as a slave culture are often rendered invisible. Looking in some detail at how the sexual availability and/or agency of free and enslaved women are constructed in relation to each other, Labovitz asks how assumptions about the sexual availability of slave women affect contemporary evaluations of rabbinic sexual ethics.
Mary Daly’s death on January 3, 2010, marked in a JFSR editorial in the fall 2010 issue, deprived the feminist community of a brilliant and radical thinker who catalyzed the feminist explorations and scholarship of innumerable women. When Mary’s friends in the American Academy of Religion (AAR) learned of her death, they immediately got to work organizing a session to honor her life and thought at the 2010 AAR annual meeting in Atlanta. The session—appropriately scheduled for Halloween—was meant to be a critical celebration and reflection on Mary and her impact rather than an exercise in hagiography (pun intended!). The papers from the session collected here consider Mary’s legacy from a wide range of perspectives, including different religious traditions, generations, social locations, and activist commitments. The presentations were followed by a rich and wide-ranging discussion. Although the recording of the discussion was not clear enough to transcribe, we hope the papers themselves convey enough of the energy and substance of the session and continue the project of remembering Mary and learning from both the strengths and weaknesses of her work.
We are very pleased to be able to publish the roundtable on HIV, gender, and religion that was initiated by our editorial board. Sarojini Nadar and Isabel Phiri, both members of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, begin the conversation by reflecting on a decade of experience researching and teaching about HIV, gender, and religion in Africa. They show how Circle discourses around gender and religion have created a paradigm shift both in the production of knowledge about the HIV pandemic in Africa and globally, and in strategies for prevention and care. In particular, they lift up four crucial insights emerging from the Circle’s work: the centrality of and connection between religion and culture as factors in understanding the HIV crisis, the importance of context-specific research, the identification of liberating masculinities, and the development of a methodology that combines intellectual and activist commitments. The respondents, almost all of whom have been involved in HIV/AIDS work in Africa themselves—sometimes in collaboration with the Circle—corroborate and expand on Nadar and Phiri’s observations on the basis of their own experiences. The result is a discussion that exemplifies the intersection of research and activism commended by the lead-in piece.
With this issue we bid a fond and very sad good-bye to Kathleen Gallagher Elkins, who has done a superb job as submissions editor for the past four years. It is always bittersweet to watch the doctoral students who serve the JFSR so well finish their dissertations and begin their teaching careers. We are grateful for Kathleen’s dedication to the Journal, often above and beyond the call of duty, and wish her well as she finishes up at Drew University. We are very happy to welcome Christy Cobb, PhD candidate in New Testament and Early Christianity at Drew Theological School, as the new submissions editor. Special thanks also to Alicia Ostriker, who has stepped down as poetry editor after serving in that capacity for several years. We are delighted to welcome Rebecca Howell as her replacement.
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