I normally don’t get too personal in my blog posts. I figure if I’m going to take up space on the blog I might as well offer up something other than me, my voice, my body, and instead some good old fashioned commentary on those categories of feminism and religion “out there.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about sacred space over the past year (occupy wall street, Durkheim, the public sphere, Park51) and only recently have I begun to really think about personal sacred space. This week, I haven’t been able to avoid it. My long-time boyfriend and I recently broke up not-so-amicably. In the past few days he has contacted all of my friends and relatives in order to say “goodbye.” I began receiving a swarm of confused questions from close friends, who informed me of the texts, messages, and phone calls they were receiving. While I won’t dwell on the details, as you can imagine, these acts have intruded on my mental and physical space to the point where space in my immediate world has been temporarily possessed by someone else. As dated as first wave feminism is, Virginia Woolf’s salient message in A Room of One’s Own is exactly what I need. I realize that though my affective, physical, emotional, and mental spaces are conjoined and cajoled by my cultural and material surroundings, it’s vital that I feel that, in some way, these spaces are mine. This is what agency is for me. And I would call it sacred.
It has been a long-standing feminist critique that women shy away from taking up space, from the classroom to the subway to the dance studio. In my three years of modern and postmodern dance at Grinnell College, I learned for the first time that my 4’9’’ petite stature could take up and move space in a way that felt empowering, not imposing. I also learned that my voice could take up space in the classroom in a way that was generative for discussion – my embodied speech could be a positive addition, not a consuming intrusion. Thinking back to Grace Kao’s post on Undermining Our Own Authority, I recognize that I, like many others, have had to practice feeling and sounding confident when expressing my ideas in a public setting.
The FAR blog is one such public setting where women can cultivate spaces of agency, of strength, of communitas. In communitas the social aspect of the personal voice attracts and binds to a kind of sacred quality, an enchanted meaning. I owe much of this inspiration to Gina Messina-Dysert’s recent post on Women Blogging Thealogy. Gina gives an empowering explanation of Carol Christ’s feminist thealogy, one that is embodied, communal, and “begins with personal experience.”
As I struggle with maintaining my own sacred personal space, I notice that this ethos affects not only my social life and health, but my academic positioning. As someone who studies religion historically and ethnographically, the question of space between oneself and one’s object of study is crucial. I’m reminded of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others, who warns against “speaking for” others in academia, as well as the basic premise of religious pluralism which aims to give equal space to all religious voices. Though I’m often moved toward repugnance or doubt when it comes to universals, it seems that a sacred personal space, a breaking that marks off but doesn’t divide, a differentiating that embraces communality, can uplift, restore, and sustain that which animates us.
A graduate student in religious studies at New York University with an interdisciplinary focus on American religion, gender and queer theory, secularization, spirituality, and consumption, Amy is a regular contributor to The Revealer, a practicing feminist, and can be followed on Twitter @levinam.