The interpretation, reclaiming, and development of language is one of the cornerstones of feminist and womanist studies in religion. Whether it is deconstructing the patriarchal meaning of certain theological terms or the naming of one’s self as a reclamation of identity, language is one way women claim subjecthood. When using language to disrupt patriarchal, racist, and colonial control, writers may insist on the use of indigenous language in the face of colonial and neoliberal forces or turn to transformative acts of inclusion through syncretism of indigenous and colonial language. Following in this tradition, the authors in this issue consider the impact of language in a variety of ways including issues of naming, imagery, metaphor, and the impact of dialogue.
In the article section, this year’s New Scholar Award winners concentrate on the power of metaphor to manipulate gender constructions and affect agency. First-place winner Elizabeth Gish excavates the rhetoric of the contemporary American sexual purity movement in “Are You a ‘Trashable’ Styrofoam Cup?” She notes this educational approach, rife with metaphors that perpetuate young women as a site of injury and vulnerability, has no positive public health outcome and further damages young women’s sense of agency and subjectivity related to sexual ethics. In “One Womanist’s View of Racial Reconciliation in Galatians,” second-place winner Angela Parker dissects metaphorical imagery in the New Testament. She invites the reader to consider how Paul’s use of the images of being a slave, being a mother, and bearing the marks of Jesus are problematically related to Paul’s status and yet lead to the translation of new creation as a more robust movement toward multiethnic and multicultural existence in community.
Margaret Kamitsuka wades into the fraught issue of naming and abortion advocacy in “Unwanted Pregnancy, Abortion, and Maternal Authority.” She asks, “How should we speak of a pregnant woman’s identity such that she is recognizable as capable of and uniquely entitled to make the gestational choice to end fetal life?” (42) While she uses the language of prochoice and prolife to elucidate the impact of discourse on abortion, Kamitsuka proposes a shift to the terminology of “maternal gestational authority” supported by a revisioning of Marian imagery. Rounding out the article section, Mika Ahuvia, in “Analogies of Violence in Rabbinic Literature,” considers the effect of violent imagery employed in the Babylonian Talmud related to the wayward son. She suggests these analogies continue to influence the reader and shape an implicit connection between violence and gender relations.
The Across Generations is an especially rich offering as we consider the impact of naming in the history of feminist and womanist studies in religion. Alison Gise Johnson interviews Katie Cannon in “Dancing Redemption’s Song, Across Generations.” Gise Johnson captures Cannon’s telling of how the term womanism came to be used in religious and theological studies and the impetus for the naming of black Christian women’s work and identity separate from the term feminist. Cannon also details the impact of early mentoring relationships and nurturing colleagueship she experienced in a patriarchal, racist, and classist academy. Not only was Cannon instrumental in bringing the term womanism to religious studies, but her books Black Womanist Ethics and Katie’s Canon also expanded the type of literature, language, and experiences included in academic study of ethics. As a mentor of Gise Johnson, Cannon turns the questions on the interviewer offering an intergenerational conversation and leading to the discussion of the future of womanism in religious studies. The interview ends with Cannon’s hopes for the Center for Womanist Leadership.
The issue closes with a roundtable coordinated by longtime JFSR international board member Sylvia Marcos. As coeditors, we are especially grateful that some of the work will be featured in its original Spanish, which is a first for the JFSR. Stemming from a gathering that occurred in November 2017 and included about fifty participants from Morelos, Chiapas, Queretaro, and Mexico City, the essays in the roundtable discuss ecofeminist theologies, the importance of an incarnate God, and theological and ethical foundations for interdependence, embodiment, and the dignity of women. Marcos writes, “The goal was to gather a wide spectrum of women, both scholars and activists, struggling for gender justice within the constraints of their faith practices and within these turbulent political times” (89). Through Marcos’s labor and diligence, we are able not only to present the roundtable in two languages but also to capture a conversational style between presenters and the women attending the conference. In “Women’s Testimonies: Spirituality and Social Justice/Testimonios de las mujeres: Espiritualidad y justicia social,” Mari Carmen Bustos records the dialogue contributions of Maria de Lourdes Hernández Salinas, Águeda Romero Martínez, Martha Bahena Roa, and Maria Isabel Martínez Rocha. The roundtable is a model for women’s collaboration across differences of language and location who have come together in a common struggle.
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