Introduction: FLTN 2016

By Mary E. Hunt

from Feminist Studies in Religion

The twentieth meeting of the Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network convened at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature in San Antonio, Texas, on Friday, November 18, 2016. Mary E. Hunt and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza presided. More than seventy participants from more than a dozen countries gathered to explore the theme of Intersectionality and Political Action.

If ever the group needed to meet, this was the year, given the U.S. presidential election, the many ways in which oppression is playing out in the world, and the rise of nationalist movements in many regions. The FLTN meeting was a chance to hear from each person in the room about their struggle and/or political involvement. It was a time to thank one another for our work, and to realize that despite the dim global situation there are plenty of efforts underway to bring about justice.

A video of the meeting can be viewed here.

Speakers focused on kyriarchal structures that oppress and feminist theological resources/actions that are conducive of justice.

Nami Kim, Associate Professor at Spelman College, spoke about “Survival at No One’s Expense: Forging an Intersectional Coalition.” She described two recent book projects, one on “U.S. imperialism in Asia” and the second a feminist analysis of “gendered politics of the Korean Protestant right.” She brought insights from both to bear on the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath. Using Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s model of kyriarchy, she showed the connections between “sexism, homophobia, and Islamophobia” as they relate to the “hegemonic masculinity.” Dr. Kim pointed out that such analysis is needed now more than ever both in theory and activism.

Judith Plaskow, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Manhattan College, shared her insights on “I’m here as a Jewish feminist.” She described her anti-racism work through Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) and the importance of doing her work as a Jew since her commitment to justice flows from her religious values. She reported on JFREJ’s work on police accountability. She also related her experience at a meeting entitled the “We Won’t Wait Summit” which was focused on economic justice for women. These were opportunities to engage in meaningful solidarity actions. She concluded with an inspiring post-election statement from JFREJ that resonated with many participants: “We are grateful for our movements and our communities, and in this difficult moment we will show up for each other in ways we never have before.”

Andrea Smith, Associate Professor at the University of California Riverside, laid out an argument for moving “Beyond Ethnographic Entrapment: Changing the Terms of the Debate.” She rejected simply including people, for example Native People or people with disabilities, into the existing models. She proposed that we change the “logic of oppression.” She related how many Native American children are expelled from schools supposedly for unacceptable behavior, but probably because they are bored. These are the same schools that are geared to teach people to tolerate boredom in their jobs, thus creating the workforce for capitalism. Instead, she proposed that we teach people to expect fulfillment, to change the normative experience beginning with the educational system, and build what we think is appropriate. Anything less will be inadequate.

Discussion ensued in small groups and was reported in the plenary gathering. The conversations were a welcome chance to sit together as people from around the world and ponder the impact of the U.S. political situation that was on everyone’s minds. Issues included privilege and risk, the politics of empathy, the need for self-care, and the importance of local as well as national focus for action. The plight of refugees, the expected rollback of gains made in reproductive health, and LGBTIQ justice were all part of the mix.

Now, the FSR Blog is pleased to provide modified versions of the aforementioned presentations of Nami Kim, Judith Plaskow, and Andrea Smith in @theTableIntersectionality & Political Action. Please join us this week in reading these blogs and participating in the conversation via the comments section and/or writing a piece for the related call for blogs (CFB).

The Feminist Liberation Theologians’ Network will meet at the AAR/SBL in Boston, on Friday, November 17, 2017 from 4-6 PM at a place to be announced. The working title for next year’s meeting is “Feminist Liberation Theologies: Resistance, Resilience, and Creativity” with suggestions for speakers and issues in that area welcome.