Gender And Religion

‘Gender-critical turns’ and other turns in post-religious and post-secular feminisms

Authored by: Maria Jaschok

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Development

Print publication date:  February  2015
Online publication date:  February  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415829083
eBook ISBN: 9780203383117
Adobe ISBN: 9781134094714


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Carried by the momentum of Third World feminism and postcolonial studies, new schools of religious feminisms in an era characterized by Rosi Braidotti (2008) as a ‘post-secular’ feminist phase are paying ever more critical attention to the diversity of women’s religious experiences as alternative forms of diversely embedded feminisms. Muslim women’s experiences, values, choices and practices – constituting the main focus of attention in this chapter – are thus claimed by a number of prominent academics writing on Islamic feminism, foremost Saba Mahmood (2005) and Masooda Bano (2012), as purposefully negotiated rights to self-constitution. And yet a growing number of influential scholars writing on the gendered nature of Islam and Muslim culture have drawn our attention to the attendant ambiguities of such claims (see below), utilizing a wide range of what Ursula King (1995) characterizes as ‘negative-critical’ and ‘positive-critical’ approaches in the study of religion. As confirmed by the author’s own research on the gendered nature of Islam and of Muslim organizations and leadership in China, while the case for close judicious examination of the intersection of gender and religion is regarded by an increasing number of academics as ever more pressing, there is also evidence in recent scholarship of the abiding instrumentalization of religion by political Islamists and other fundamentalist religious groups for legitimization of beliefs and policies that disempower women (Hélie and Hoodfar, 2012). King (1995) points to the need for continued attention to, and critique of, the global resurgence of patriarchy as religious mandate, while giving due recognition to the power of women who claim religion as a liberating force. In this ‘post-secular’ feminist phase, close scholarly attention is given to the diversity of women’s religious experiences as alternative forms of diversely embedded feminisms. The main incentive behind Islamic feminist research today is the interweaving of women’s perspectives and a faith position that subscribes to the Islamic doctrine and basic message, toward the activation of its ‘just’ and ‘fair’ principles and the production of gender-sensitive knowledge within an Islamic frame of reference.

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