Zwissler, “Religious, Feminist, Activist”

Zwissler, Laurel. 2018. Religious, Feminist, Activist: Cosmologies of Interconnection. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 

Publisher’s Description: In Religious, Feminist, Activist, Laurel Zwissler investigates the political and religious identities of women who understand their social-justice activism as religiously motivated. Placing these women in historical context as faith-based activists for social change, this book discusses what their activities reveal about the public significance of religion in the pluralistic context of North America and in our increasingly globalized world. Zwissler’s ethnographic interviews with feminist Catholics, Pagans, and United Church Protestants reveal radically different views of religious and political expression and illuminate how individual women and their communities negotiate issues of personal identity, spirituality, and political responsibility.

Political activists of faith recount adventurous tales of run-ins with police, agonizing moments of fear and powerlessness in the face of global inequality, touching moments of community support, and successful projects that improve the lives of others. Religious, Feminist, Activist combines religion, politics, and globalization—subjects frequently discussed in macro terms—with individual personalities and intimate stories to provide a fresh perspective on what it means to be religiously and politically engaged. Zwissler also provides an insightful investigation into how religion and politics intersect for women on the political left.

Thomas, “Tying of the Ceremonial Wedding Thread”

Thomas, Sonja. 2016. The Tying of the Ceremonial Wedding Thread: A Feminist Analysis of “Ritual” and “Tradition” among Syro-Malabar Catholics in India. Journal of Global Catholicism 1(1): 104-116.

Abstract: This article presents a feminist analysis of patriarchy persisting in Catholicism of the Syro-Malabar rite in Kerala. The article specifically considers the impact of charismatic Catholicism on women of the Syro-Malabar rite and argues that it is important to interrogate this new face of religiosity in order to fully understand how certain rituals are allowed to change and be fluid, while others, especially concerning female sexuality, are enshrined as “tradition” which often restricts the parameters for women’s empowerment and may reinforce caste and patriarchal hegemonies preventing feminist solidarity across different religious- and caste-based groups.

Thomas, “Strangers, Friends, and Kin: Negotiated Recognition in Ethnographic Relationships”

Thomas, Todne. 2016. Strangers, Friends, and Kin: Negotiated Recognition in Ethnographic Relationships. Anthropology and Humanism 41(1):66-85.

Abstract: Anthropologists have framed ethnographers as participant-observers, strangers, and friends and have written about ethnographic research encounters in terms of the productive spaces between researchers and research collaborators. Informed by my review of research literature on ethnographic relationships, my application of de-colonial, feminist, and postmodern research methodologies, and my experience of being reconstituted as a “[church] sister” by the members of an Afro-West Indian and African American evangelical church association, I argue that characterizations of research encounters by research collaborators hold important implications for ethnographic research and writing.

DeRogatis, “Saving Sex: Sexuality and Salvation in American Evangelicalism”

DeRogatis, Amy. 2014. Saving sex : sexuality and salvation in American evangelicalism. New York: Oxford University Press. 

Publisher’s Description: A long history of vehement public opposition to pre-marital sex, pornography, masturbation, gay-marriage, and birth control has cast the evangelical Christian community as regressive and “anti-sex” in the minds of many Americans. In a groundbreaking investigation of evangelical sex education, Amy DeRogatis reveals that this representation could not be farther from the truth: in fact, evangelicals view sex not only as natural and sanctioned by the Bible, but as an essential part of any Christian marriage.

For decades, evangelical sexual education has been a thriving industry. Evangelical couples have sought advice from Christian psychologists and marriage counselors, purchased millions of copies of faith-based “sexual guidebooks,” and consulted magazines, pamphlets, websites, blogs, and podcasts on a vast array of sexual topics, including human anatomy, STDs-sometimes known in evangelical circles as “Sexually Transmitted Demons”-mutual masturbation, sexual role-play, and sex toys, all from a decidedly biblical angle. DeRogatis explores every corner of the industry, from purity literature for young evangelicals to sex manuals for married couples to “deliverance manuals,” which instruct believers in how to expel demons that enter the body through sexual sin.

DeRogatis also shows how feminism has seeped into the evangelical sexual ethic: despite a subscription to traditional gender roles based on the literal interpretation of scripture, many evangelical sexual guides emphasize the importance of mutual consent and female climax. The evangelical approach to sex transcends mere mechanics, emphasizing the fundamental importance of sexual fulfillment in a Christian marriage and perceiving sex as a spiritual act that furthers a couple’s relationship with God.

Saving Sex is a long-overdue exploration of the role of sex in America’s evangelical Christian community, and of the many ways in which American evangelicals participate in cultural conversations about sexuality.

Suárez, “Renewal in the Cuban Evangelical Church”

Suárez, Margarita M. W. 2014. Renewal in the Cuban Evangelical Church: The Perspective of Two Feminist Pastors.  Cross Currents 64(2): 236-261. 

Excerpt: The Protestant churches in Cuba are changing. They are recreating themselves in Cuba which is itself changing often moment by moment. In the early years of the revolution, religious people were often seen as counter-revolutionary, and with the advent of Latin American Liberation Theology in the 70s and 80s, the Cuban government began to realize that one could be both religious and revolutionary.1 With the demise of the Soviet Union, in the early 90s, the government also realized that pragmatically an openness to religion would lead to new avenues for trade and economic assistance. In this article, the changing face of the Protestant church in Cuba will be viewed through the lens of the lives and thought of two Cuban women pastors, one Presbyterian and one Baptist. They exemplify a new feminist Christianity now seen in the church in Cuba.

Austin, “Quaker Brotherhood”

Austin, Allan W. 2012. Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Publisher’s Description: The Religious Society of Friends and its service organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), have long been known for their peace and justice activism. The abolitionist work of Friends during the antebellum era has been well documented, and their contemporary anti-war and anti-racism work is familiar to activists around the world. Quaker Brotherhood is the first extensive study of the AFSC’s interracial activism in the first half of the twentieth century, filling a major gap in scholarship on the Quakers’ race relations work from the AFSC’s founding in 1917 to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s.

Allan W. Austin tracks the evolution of key AFSC projects, such as the Interracial Section and the American Interracial Peace Committee, that demonstrate the tentativeness of the Friends’ activism in the 1920s, as well as efforts in the 1930s to make scholarly ideas and activist work more theologically relevant for Friends. Documenting the AFSC’s efforts to help European and Japanese American refugees during World War II, Austin shows that by 1950 Quakers in the AFSC had honed a distinctly Friendly approach to interracial relations that combined scholarly understandings of race with their religious views.

In tracing the transformation of one of the most influential social activist groups in the United States over the first half of the twentieth century, Quaker Brotherhood presents Friends in a thoughtful, thorough, and even-handed manner. Austin portrays the history of the AFSC and race–highlighting the organization’s boldness in some aspects and its timidity in others–as an ongoing struggle that provides a foundation for understanding how shared agency might function in an imperfect and often racist world.

Highlighting the complicated and sometimes controversial connections between Quakers and race during this era, Austin uncovers important aspects of the history of Friends, pacifism, feminism, American religion, immigration, ethnicity, and the early roots of multiculturalism.