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Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist…

Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (edition 2005)

by Kwok Pui-lan

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The burgeoning field of postcolonial studies argues that most theology has been formed in dominant cultures, laden intrinsically with imperializing structures. An essential task facing theology is thus to "decolonize" the mind and free Christianity from colonizing bias and structures. Here, in this truly groundbreaking study, highly respected feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan offers the first full-length theological treatment of what it means to do postcolonial feminist theology. She explains her methodological basis and explores several specific topics, including Christology, pluralism, and creation.… (more)
Title:Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology
Authors:Kwok Pui-lan
Info:Westminster John Knox Press (2005), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Feminist theology, Postcolonialism

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Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology by Kwok Pui-lan



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The author bravely proclaims she is "one of the few theologians interested in postcolonial studies", and using a "fresher approach", she examines the relation between theology and the study of religion "within the larger sociopolitical matrix of colonialism" from which academic studies of religion have emerged. [188] She poses the ironic question of whether the modernist paradigm, under color of "value-neutral" objectivity, is in fact a further "colonization" of the field. A concrete example of imbrication and imperialization. She notes Chidester's observation (pub. 1996) that as missionaries arrived in southern Africa in the early nineteenth century "they could not find religion in Africa" because of their own Christian assumptions. [188] In opening up Comparative Theology, Kwok cites Richard King's argument that "religion" is a concept created in the Western imagination "which serves as a cognitive map" of diverse terrains and spheres of human life. [189]

Pui-lan provides an important perspective on Schleiermacher, the founder of modern theology. "Theology, for Schleiermacher, does not begin with revelation, but begins with an analysis of the religious consciousness of humankind. Jesus is unique and exemplary because in him we can fully witness the consciousness of the feeling of absolute dependence on God." [189-192]. She fairly expresses Schleiermacher's comparative explanations for why he believed "Christianity is the most perfect of the most highly developed forms of religion". [193]

The author notes that Schleiermacher exposed "an interesting gender dimension": "While the Enlightenment philosophers had constructed the 'Man of Reason', Schleiermacher valorized what was traditionally regarded as the feminine; intuition, feelings, and devotion to spiritual values. His emphasis on the feeling of absolute dependence places the experiencing subject in a passive-receptive position vis-a-vis the infinite or the Eternal. He indicates that such feeling can be found in "almost all women" (47). But as Katherine Faull points out, Schleiermacher's experiencing subject is still male; only his religious consciousness is mediated through the feminine. Schleiermacher uses "heterosexual intercourse as an important metaphor" to understand the individual's experience of the Universe: "I lie on the bosom of the infinite world. At this moment I am its soul, for I feel all its powers and its infinite life as my own; at this moment it is my body, for I penetrate its muscles and its limbs as my own, and its innermost nerves move according to my sense and my presentiment as my own." Pui-lan credits Faull with the observation that Schleiermacher endows nature and the Absolute with female physical attributes and "she becomes his body as he penetrates her muscles and limbs." Pui-lan concludes that "Schleiermacher's gender-inflected and class- and race-conscious definition of religion exerted tremendous influence on subsequent discussions...".

Pui-lan steps through the 19th century effort to reconstruct a "historical" Jesus by Muller and Renan in a naked (and futile) attempt to de-Judaize the "Galilean" Christ. She proceeds to Troeltsch's challenge of the Wahrheitsanspruche "truth claims" in the face of comparative religion studies emerging from anthropology. [196] Noting that liberal confidence and Schleiermacher's optimism was shattered by the First World War, "Karl Barth's neo-orthodoxy signals the diametric opposite". Barth's negative view of religion as unbelief (Unglaube) and revelation as its abolition --"Nein!") also unfolded a feminine position vis a vis the Infinite, running ironically parallel with Schleiermacher. In Barth's case, the "Wholly Other" invokes an image of a gender-inflected experience of religious consciousness mediated through the feminine. [193, 196].

Pui-lan concludes Chapter 8 with an invocation raised by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi of Iran. "Let us hope with her that "patriarchal culture and the discrimination against women ... cannot continue forever." For if it does, then as Christian theologians we have failed to take up the challenge of seeing "religion" as an integral pan of culture and society, which cannot be construed as concerned only with the sacred and not with the mundane. And we have failed to challenge intrareligious and interreligious networks of power relations that seek to maintain control over women. " ( )
  keylawk | Sep 12, 2017 |
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