Surviving, subverting, and toppling patriarchy has been and continues to be the work of feminist activists, scholars, and teachers across the globe. Creating a forum to share their stories, scholarship, and successes is a key function of the Journal. In the current issue, readers will find a rich diversity of genres from contexts spanning the globe, which share in a common theme of utilizing the rich resources often hidden in religious traditions to “support and enable the full humanity of women and the integrity of all creation” as noted by authors Chammah Kaunda and Benjamin Pokol in the first article. Stories mined from scripture, literature, myth, and current realities both highlight the oppression and suffering that patriarchy causes while modeling the power of relationship building, opportunities for organizing, and the reshaping of religious landscapes in the academy and within faith communities.
The articles section embodies religious and geographic diversity, introducing the reader to a variety of methods in feminist studies in religion. In “African Christianity, Myth of Creation, and Gender Justice: An African Feminist Re-Inculturation Perspective,” Kaunda and Pokol demonstrate an African feminist missiology as they put the African indigenous creation myth Suum-ngi in conversation with European colonial Christianity, and contemporary realities of human rights, gender, sexuality, and justice. Their critical analysis and method provide a context specific “resource for critiquing patriarchy and promoting gender justice” (7). Through ethnographic work, Samta Pandya details the practices of kanyas, Hindu women renunciants, as an example of feminist performances that challenge social and religious forms of patriarchy. As her title notes, kanyas’ commitment to celibacy, renunciation, and ritual performance subvert traditional gender expectations, redistributing religious power and upending both “cultural timetables set for women and male hegemony in religion” (21). While the kanyas’ religious practices move them out of the patriarchal dichotomous options for women, the third article highlights the pedagogical impact of scriptural depictions of women’s roles as married, good women versus adulterous, dangerous women. Mahri Leonard-Fleckman applies a literary analysis to bring forth the metaphorical power of the adulterous woman in Proverbs 1–9 to shape the religious imagination, especially for scribes and perhaps current religious leaders. The last article continues the discussion of representations of women this time in medieval Tamil literature. Leah Comeau provides the reader with an inclusive feminist reading strategy to disrupt a “split-image” or dichotomous view of Hindu femininity, exposing various female characters and their roles.
The poetry section, “In a Different Voice,” features two different interpretations of the life of Hagar, one ending in triumph and one in desperation. Trisha Arlin uses the Jewish liturgical structure of holy conversation to craft parallels between the inner workings of privilege in the biblical story and the present. Tamam Kahn also reimagines use of privilege in the narrative as she recasts Sarah’s jealousy as a means to Hagar fulfilling her vision. Women’s relationships throughout scripture and today are deeply affected by the interreligious, cross-generational, and geo- political influences raised in this section.We then turn to three different sections that together share a rich history of womanist and feminist pioneers in religious studies and call forth the continued need for radical and inclusive feminist and womanist scholarship, activism, and teaching.
In “Living It Out: Herstory,” Rita Nakashima Brock and Susan Thistlethwaite reflect on the development of the sexual harassment policies in the American Academy of Religion in light of the #MeToo movement. They note the motivation of shared experience that provided a space of commiseration and organizing, the recognition of the need for mentoring and networks, and the continued roadblocks, ongoing strategizing, and eventual small victories that over the years have compounded to tangible change. The work is not done, and they look forward to even more significant progress in the future.
We have the privilege in this issue of honoring two gifted, generous, and discipline-shaping scholars: amina wadud, a Muslim feminist foremother, and Katie Geneva Cannon, a womanist foremother. Both of these African American women have altered the landscape of their respective religious traditions and disciplinary fields as well as creating organizations and networks, mentoring generations of students, and continuing to shape feminist studies in religion. Kecia Ali’s interview with amina wadud captures her impact on the academy and within local Muslim communities beginning with the founding of Sisters of Islam. wadud says of this experience and the women with whom she worked, “I sometimes had to pull them to think about the theology, which they resisted, and they sometimes had to pull me to think about the lived realities on the ground, which I too resisted. In the end, these friendships have continued for three decades” (72). She addresses the difficulty and joys of building community as a global citizen, often never settling in one place. In response to leaving her academic position ten years ago, she notes, “It was enough for me to understand that if I wanted the freedom to be able to continue to develop what I thought was my mandate in being human that I couldn’t do it in academia” (74). She has set an example of inclusivity through her scholarship, including her newest project on sexual and gender diversity in Islam and her religious leadership, which has spurred inclusive mosque initiatives that pay attention to diversity of sexuality, gender, ability, economics, and more.
The “Special Section: Remembering Katie G. Cannon” comes with mixed emotions, including pride, grief, and thankfulness. Rev. Dr. Cannon passed away in summer 2018. She was a founding board member of the Journal and ever-present advisor to FSR, Inc., throughout the years. Contributors are colleagues, students, and friends, some with whom she collaborated over the years at the Journal and those who gathered to honor her at the American Academy of Religion meeting this past November. She is remembered as a teacher, mentor, friend, role model, healer, organizer, and Bishop. In Rev. Dr. Cannon’s “Across Generations” interview in the most recent issue of JFSR, she said, “So, this is the ‘third chapter’ for me. I want to step into my time. I’m willing to step into the spotlight because now it is not all on me. Incarnation of the ‘we’ is what I am committed to doing. Replicating spaces where doing the work your soul must do and no one can say that you are wrong. It’s the space that I got glimpses of while working with my peers at Union. I got glimpses of it mentoring the women at Temple University. I got glimpses of it with every class taught and every womanist meeting. For my third chapter, I am willing to continue excavating my own soul and work to make The Center for Womanist Leadership happen.” She began her third chapter prior to her death. We invite our readers to continue it by supporting the Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership (contact [email protected] for instructions on how to donate). While this issue is slimmer in size, it carries a weightiness of intellectual and historical reach that lives into the mission and vision of JFSR that the contributors to this issue model and many of whom helped cultivate over the years.
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