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  • Editors' Introduction
  • Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Melanie Johnson-DeBaufre

We open this issue of JFSR by celebrating and remembering three feminist scholars of religion. The first comes in the letter of Karen Mccarthy Brown's friends asking to support the French edition of her classic work, Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Karen, who suffers from an uncommon form of dementia, was a long-standing member of the editorial board of JFSR and has shaped its perspective from the beginning. In this way, we want to thank Karen publicly for her work and leadership in feminist studies in religion and encourage our readers to honor this eminent feminist scholar by making a financial contribution to the French translation of her book which will help to restore the ancestral religion of Haiti in such times of great challenges facing the country and its people.

The editorial of another longtime board member, Mary Hunt, remembers the extraordinary feminist thinker Mary Daly, who died on January 3, 2010, in Massachusetts after she had been in poor health for the last two years. Her intellectual contributions to feminist philosophy, theory, and studies in religion were unique, numerous, and self-transforming. JFSR salutes her spirit and seeks to continue her feminist work in different ways.

Also in this issue, the roundtable celebrates the work of Nancy Eiesland, who died in spring 2009. Nancy was a feminist disability theologian. She contributed to the first conversation of feminist disability theologians in JFSR, initiated by Elly Elshout. This roundtable appeared in the fall issue of 1994 and castigated feminism's valorization of ableness and body thereby adopting the Platonic ideal of the "wholeness" of body and neglecting the vulnerability of the unrehabilitated "flesh": pain, disease, aging, and other bodily limits. Hence Sharon Betcher, who initiates this new roundtable in honor of Eiesland, argues that feminist theory should focus on flesh because it admits our vulnerability and exposure. "Flesh, the dynamic and fluid physics of embodiment, cannot as easily as the body submit to transcendentalist metaphysics, to the logic of the one. Flesh suggests that the capaciousness of a life resembles a teacup crackled with ten thousand veins. Spirit, lived in relation to flesh, might then not be so interested in wholeness as in passion" (108). We hear the echoes of this capacious and multifaceted passion in the psalms and blessings of the poems by Rebecca Gayle Howell and Lillian Baker Kennedy, which speak "in a different voice." [End Page 1]

The articles of this volume map new feminist epistemological and hermeneutical pathways in different religions. The Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza 2010 New Scholar Award winners Shannon Dunn and Rosemary Kellison explore intersections of scripture and law in their discussion of Qur'an 4:34, which interpreted literally suggests that some form of beating is an appropriate punishment for a husband to administer to a disobedient wife. They demonstrate that from the moment of its revelation, many Muslim scholars, including (according to tradition) the Prophet Muhammad himself, have struggled to reconcile this verse with their consciences. They also identify a debate within the legal tradition that parallels that of the Qur'anic interpreters, as legal scholars argue for and against the use of individual reason or conscience, in a method known as ijtihad, in their rulings dealing with the role and status of women. Finally, they identify promising directions for future research on this issue, particularly in regard to contemporary Western democracies where Muslims are a minority. We congratulate the authors on their award and we look forward to their future work. We also congratulate Michelle Voss Roberts, whose article "Religious Belonging and the Multiple" (JFSR 26.1, Spring 2010) earned second place in the 2010 Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza New Scholars Award.

Ronit Irshai's article also addresses interpretations of religious law through her discussion of a gender critical approach to the philosophy of Jewish law (halakhah). Irshai seeks to create a framework for using feminist insights within Orthodox halakhic discourse, by suggesting, among other things, a conversation between feminist scholarship in halakhah and theology, on the one hand, and contemporary critical legal theory, on the other. In so doing, she challenges some of the ways...


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