Goddess Politics and the Cauldron of Memory by Kavita Maya

KavitaMaya‘Someone needs to gather the stories, to keep the cauldron,’ said the late Goddess feminist artist Lydia Ruyle during one of the last times we spoke, at the 2014 Glastonbury Goddess Conference. I had hinted at my concerns around conducting doctoral research in the presence of ongoing conflict within the Glastonbury Goddess community (especially when my broadly-stated site of interest is ‘politics’), and in reply she had stressed the need to ‘hold space’ for the different voices and perspectives in the UK Goddess movement, and that conflict would be inevitable. ‘There needs to be a weaver,’ she said.

The following day I recorded an interview with Lydia and some of her friends at Café Galatea on the High Street, which she had been keen to ensure since the previous summer—with poignant foresight, given her death in March 2016. I’m not sure if she was expecting that I should fully take on the role of this ‘weaver’—there are more stories than one PhD thesis can claim to encompass—but the theme is present in my writing. Her words lead me to reflect on the weaving together of politics with memory and storytelling, and on the need to honour the plural histories of the British Goddess movement. Continue reading “Goddess Politics and the Cauldron of Memory by Kavita Maya”

Reflections on Researching the Goddess Movement in Britain by Kavita Maya

KavitaMayaI’ve been asked by both academics and Pagans what inspired me to pursue doctoral research on the British Goddess movement: of the many ways that people first click with feminist politics, a story entwined with a ‘spiritual’ impulse might seem unusual, given the slow-to-change secular assumptions of mainstream feminism.

When I reflect on my history, two threads at the core of my early feminist identity leap out: one, the value of thinking and asking questions; the other, ‘feminist spirituality’, which for me describes a profound emotional, intellectual and creative investment in the struggle for a fairer, more inclusive world. Two early ‘click’ moments: as a child, asking persistent questions about the sexist gender roles modeled by those around me (and being told “You’ll understand when you’re older,” which I now recall with a grim irony), and—perhaps unusually—coming across the concepts of patriarchy, feminism and the Goddess by way of 1990s teen fiction about witches. Continue reading “Reflections on Researching the Goddess Movement in Britain by Kavita Maya”

A Short Lesson in Subjugated Knowledges

“We” can give many answers for how to colonize someone; but for many of us, it often takes special training, years of education, reconstructive projects, task forces, books upon book of reading, listening through the loud and ever present static of dominant culture, constant vigilance, one’s own liberation, the liberation of others, etc. to learn how to think otherwise.

Sara FrykenbergIn her Presidential Address at the national meeting of the American Academy of Religion in 2011, Dr. Kwok Pui-lan outlined a history of Religious Studies and its relationship to colonial projects, challenging the membership to apply post-colonial theory and analysis to our scholarship and teaching, think with and relate to our global colleagues, and start asking questions about what studying religion does for us, “rethink[ing], reimagin[ing] and recreat[ing] our discipline.”[1] Responding to this call, I have been slowly working to include postcolonial discourse in each of my classes, lower division, upper division, graduate and undergraduate.

Continue reading “A Short Lesson in Subjugated Knowledges”

Postcolonial Feminist Theology and… Deep Space Nine by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergIt’s no secret here that I am a big fan of science-fiction and fantasy. Discussing the NASA Space Program, the shuttle Curiosityvideo gaming and cosplay is fun for me, and I assert that there is transformative and hopeful potential in these kinds of imaginative fictions. I also find that when done well, science fiction offers soci-political critique and encourages us to critically engage our own world without (no pun intended) alienating some part of its audience completely, as many political debates are apt to do. For example, I use a clip from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) in my ethics classes to discuss issues of motivation, intention and end result–as these concepts relate to war and violence. (The clip is from the episode In the Pale Moonlight, and you can see it here.) Episodes like this one can be used to refigure issues we struggle with today, projecting them into a future struggle from which we can draw comparisons to our own time.

Recently I have been reading Kwok Pui-lan’s book Postcolonial Imagination & Feminist Theology; at the same time, I have been re-watching some episodes of DS9. Powerfully addressing the ways in which Western theology helps to reinscribe colonial ideology and practice, Pui-lan argues for (and exemplifies) the creation of new, emancipatory, postcolonial feminist theological discourses. Reading these “texts” together, I was struck with how powerfully DS9 illustrates many of the postcolonial politics and tensions Kwok Pui-lan considers in her book. She describes a “contact zone” as “the space of colonial encounters where people of different geographical and historical backgrounds are brought into contact with each other, usually shaped by inequality and conflictual relations.”[i] DS9 explores this place of contact, imagining how the different parties involved are changed by the encounter. Continue reading “Postcolonial Feminist Theology and… Deep Space Nine by Sara Frykenberg”

A Next Wave of Scholarship By Kwok Pui Lan

I came to the United States in 1984 to begin my doctoral studies at Harvard Divinity School. It was an exciting time to do feminist theology and religious studies. Womanist ethics just began to emerge, as Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon has just completed a dissertation on the subject at Union Theological Seminary in 1983. I count it as a blessing that she was teaching at the Episcopal Divinity School, just on the other side of the Cambridge Common.

The mid-1980s saw the paradigm shifts in feminist studies in religion, as womanist, mujerista/Latina, Asian and Asian American women began to articulate their own theological understanding. If Womanspirit Rising (1979) was a reference text for our field, which contained essays by white women, we had the first reader by radical women of color, This Bridge Called Our Back(1981).

We began to discuss multiple oppressions and multiple identities, and the need to integrate race, class, and gender into our analyses. We challenged white women who have universalized their middle-class, white experience as if women were all the same. Continue reading “A Next Wave of Scholarship By Kwok Pui Lan”

Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Women and Redemption: A Theological History By Gina Messina-Dysert


Women and Redemption : A Theological History. 2nd ed. By Rosemary Radford Ruether.Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2011.

Women and Redemption: A Theological History

Having been critically impacted by the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether, I was anxious for the release of the second edition of her crucial book, Women and Redemption: A Theological HistoryRedesigned with illustrative material, research questions, and suggested reading for further research, as well as the addition of a new chapter exploring recent developments in feminist theology, this text does not disappoint.

With this newest edition, Ruether acknowledges the ongoing journey in the field of feminist theology and emerging issues faced by women in religion and society. Examining the Christian claim of an inclusive and universal redemption in Christ, she traces paradigm shifts in understandings of gender over the last two millennia.  Ruether offers an historical exploration of women and redemption in the first five chapters followed by a global survey of contemporary feminist theologies in the final four chapters, which includes a concluding section that gives attention to “Fourth World” feminisms and post-colonialism in an effort to “bring this volume up to date” (xvii). Continue reading “Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Women and Redemption: A Theological History By Gina Messina-Dysert”

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