The creation of spaces for innovative thought and activism related to religion and feminism has been a long-standing commitment of JFSR. The collaborative relationship with our electronic sister organization EFSR represents one example of this commitment. Two of the articles in the roundtable on feminism, religion, and the Internet in this volume are written by EFSR coeditors Kate Ott and Grace Ji-Sun Kim. Now, under the auspices of Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc., the umbrella organization to which EFSR and JFSR both belong, there will be a new organization launched: the Feminist Studies in Religion Forum. The forum will be a transnational, cross disciplinary feminist and womanist network. This new organization will generate even more dynamic spaces of innovation for new and seasoned scholars, activists, and religious practitioners. The vision for its future includes a peer-reviewed book series in which members can publish their work. The intention is to cultivate additional venues for intersectional feminist/womanist engagement outside of pressures of the major professional organizations. We are excited about our affiliation with this exciting new venture.
With the completion of this issue, we mark an important staff transition. We want to recognize the stellar work of Christy Cobb, who has just completed a three-year term as JFSR Submissions Editor. We are deeply grateful for the dedication, grace, and efficiency she has brought to the position. Through her careful attention to innumerable, daily, behind-the scenes tasks, she has been instrumental in tending the administrative space that has helped JFSR thrive.
The essays and poetry in this volume share an emphasis on thoughtful engagement of unique spaces where feminist interventions and innovations can thrive. They investigate scholarship and activism linked to religion and gender in new and unexpected contexts. This emphasis is evident in the winning essay for the 2015 Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholar Award submitted by Shelly Colette. Colette’s essay enters an unconventional space for feminist religious thought—the world of contemporary fashion magazine advertisements. She focuses on their portrayal of images of Eve and the Genesis/Fall myth. Similarly, the roundtable probes the nontraditional context of the discourses and formats of cyberspace. Starting with the lead article by Gina Messina-Dysert, the authors in the roundtable examine the question of how feminist studies in religion should continue to evolve in the digital world. The array of examples that they address includes blogging, gaming, Facebook, and hashtag activism.
The contrasting perspectives in the roundtable on such issues as the revolutionary potential of online public platforms for allowing religious feminist and womanist ideas to affect public life intriguingly compare with Erin Brigham’s concern with Catholic women’s public influence and unconventional public actions. Utilizing feminist theory, Brigham explores the public influence and authority of Catholic women religious. She cites examples like the Nuns on the Bus tours. Although it offers a completely different lens, Jeane C. Peracullo’s discussion of ecological theology further enriches this same emphasis on the implications of context for innovative feminist thought and action. Peracullo’s article adds another mode of spatial consciousness to this volume through its crafting of ecofeminist theology centered on the body-space of hunger and the geopolitical space of the Philippines. Jill Hammer’s creativity in her playful and serious poems about the dragon on the subway and in the gynecologist’s office underscores the ways in which particular spaces chosen by all of these authors provide deeply provocative sites for reflecting on feminist knowledge, religion, and spirituality.
Additional explorations of scholarly contexts are suggestively resonant with one another as the authors explain how feminist thought and/or women’s notions of God can claim space within religions, traditions, and histories. The concerns of the individual articles as well as the juxtaposition of their differing approaches reveal religious struggles over epistemological space. For instance, to consider scholarly strategies of resistance to dominant patriarchal reasoning, Adis Duderija focuses on the development of Islamic feminist thought. Duderija’s productive engagement of the Qur’an, Sunna, and the turath in order to construct nonpatriarchal interpretations compares and contrasts nicely with Natalia Imperatori-Lee’s feminist contestations. She argues against the hermeneutical violence embedded in Catholic clerical “mansplaining” responses to pioneering Catholic feminist theology. We also find insights about the construction of gendered knowledge when comparing Imperatori-Lee’s criticism of the polarized gendered Christian theological understandings of Catholic clerics with Janet Jacobs’s research exploring the crisis of masculinity that underlies Jewish historical trauma. Jacobs documents post-Holocaust religious and spiritual worldviews of the children of Jewish survivors and offers new knowledge about gendered notions of God and the intergenerational transmission of trauma. The documented, contested, and constructed knowledge all of the articles discuss claims space for new scholarly feminist traditions and insights about religion. The creative variation in their perspectives and arguments sparks a desire for more.
No political, historical, activist, or academic context should be off-limits for feminist and womanist inquiries. In addition to scholarly debates, those inquiries must even incorporate the complicated and mostly underexamined issues of religion and gender underlying everyday news headlines about our global contexts. Some of the recent ones (at the time of this publication) range from concern for Hindus and Buddhists displaced in the Nepal earthquakes, especially children vulnerable to sex traffickers, to the white racist killing of nine African American Christians who were gathered for church Bible study in South Carolina. The fact that six of the nine were women invites womanist and feminist analysis of black church space, gender, and the history of white racist terrorism.
In its attention to innovative strategies and new forms of knowledge production that can influence public life and religious traditions, we hope that the space claimed by the scholarly ideas in this issue of JFSR offers inspiration and tools for fostering more feminist and womanist values in every corner of our world.
Back to Volume 31, Number 2