Religion, Gender and Postcolonialism
This course will look at religion from the perspective of Gender Studies and Postcolonial Studies. Our religion and our gender are interconnected with our specific position within this world, as determined by the existing global power relations. These interconnections shape our daily experiences. How are gender and religion affected by colonialism and neocolonialism? And what has been and can be done to resist the existing injustices? In much of the available feminist academic literature, religion is merely positioned as one among many patriarchal ideologies. There certainly may be some truth in that, but the situation is far more complex than that. This negative view about how religions, particularly nonWestern religions, treat women, has long been used as part of colonial discourses. We will critically look into how these discourses work, and what effects they have on individuals and society. It will become clear that while legitimating and upholding existing power relations, colonial discourses actually produce particular femininities and masculinities. Many contemporary debates concerning religion, gender, and sexuality, can be better understood if we consider the specific postcolonial context where they are taking place. We will also briefly look at a second, rather different pattern of colonial discourse on non-Western cultures and religions, i.e. the discourse of exoticism. Eastern spirituality is idealized as a positive, exotic supplement to the Western way of life, often in profoundly and stereotypically gendered ways. It is then eagerly integrated into contemporary consumer culture.