- Editors’ Introduction
From its beginnings, the JFSR has striven to be a serious academic journal that at the same time is rooted in and serves women’s activism in the academy and beyond. As our mission statement says, the editors “are committed to rigorous thinking and analysis in the service of the transformation of religious studies as a discipline and the feminist transformation of religious and cultural institutions.” While we hope that this commitment is evident in every issue of the journal, the current volume perhaps illustrates especially well the ways in which critical scholarship can open up new directions for activism and reflection on activism can strengthen scholarship.
The fall issue is always the time that we have the pleasure of announcing the Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholar Award recipients, a project that itself contributes to the feminist transformation of religious studies by nurturing the next generation of feminist scholars. This year’s first place goes to Ally Kateusz for her article “Collyridian Déjà Vu: The Trajectory of Redaction of the Markers of Mary’s Liturgical Leadership” and second place goes to Amy L. Allocco for “From Survival to Respect: The Narrative Performances and Ritual Authority of a Female Hindu Healer.” Allocco’s article appeared in the previous issue (29.1) as part of a special section, Illuminating Women’s Religious Authority through Ethnography. Articles submitted for the award go through the normal review process and then, if accepted, are sent to a subcommittee of the board that reads and ranks them. Thanks to Kwok Pui Lan, Sylvia Marcos, and Miranda Shaw for serving on this year’s selection committee, and congratulations to the winners.
All the articles in this issue point to new directions for activism and/or feminist scholarly investigation. Meredith Minister, in her article “Religion and (Dis)Ability in Early Feminism,” draws on contemporary disability theory to show how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth’s views of equality participated in the marginalization of people with disabilities prevalent in their time. Building on a significant body of work that has analyzed and critiqued the racist and classist rhetoric of many first-wave feminists, Minister points out that ableism has not been subjected to the same feminist scrutiny. She begins her essay with a discussion of the physical health movement and its impact on the ways that people in the nineteenth century thought about embodiment, health, [End Page 1] and illness. In line with the movement’s thinking, Minister says, Stanton argued for women’s innate intellectual, moral, and physical equality with men while assuming that those who are more capable in all these areas are more valuable human beings. Interestingly, Sojourner Truth, despite the ways she challenged racism and classicism in the feminist movement and despite her having a disabled hand, also accepted the idea that more productive members of society have more value. Contemporaneous photographs of Stanton and Truth buttressed their arguments by seeking to present them both as capable women, which in Truth’s case, involved hiding her disfigurement. Minister concludes by calling on feminists today to attend to ability as an important dimension of intersectionality and to develop new theological anthropologies that do not equate productivity with value.
Fatima Seedat’s article, “Islam, Feminism, and Islamic Feminism,” seeks to create a space for gender-equality work within Islam by interrogating what she sees as the too-easy identification of such work with something called “Islamic feminism.” Taking off from Asma Barlas’s critique of Margot Badran’s insistence on using the term “Islamic feminism,” Seedat asks whether it is possible to theorize sexual equality using an alternative paradigm. On the one hand, given the hegemony of the European intellectual tradition, she says, it is almost inevitable that Muslim attempts to improve the quality of women’s lives will be identified with feminism. On the other hand, this label does not necessarily meet the needs of scholars who want to develop new understandings of sex difference in non-Western and postcolonial cultures without erasing the productive differences between Muslim women’s struggles for equality and those in other traditions. The problem, Seedat suggests, is that when...