- Diasporic Feminist Theology: Asia and Theopolitical Imagination by Namsoon Kang
This collection of essays by Namsoon Kang, professor of world Christianity and religions at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas, focuses on methodological issues in feminist Christian theology from what she calls a diasporic standpoint. Chapter 1 defines diaspora as an existence between home and away. This term reflects Kang’s life experience, but she employs it predominantly as a metaphor. She understands diasporic consciousness in a postcolonial sense, as dwelling in the present but at its fringes, constantly seeking to shift the practices, norms, and institutions of one’s context toward a greater justice. She sees this kind of consciousness as critical for feminist theologies that would challenge all forms of exclusivism and discrimination.
A key issue for Kang is how people will live together in a world of radical difference fraught with multiple forms of oppression. She sees seeking to live together in justice and peace as at the heart of what it means to follow Jesus. Chapter 2 asks how theology can help form an identity that does not repress alterity and promotes the solidarity with others that such justice-seeking requires. She answers that theology can do so by continually attending to the two poles of (1) continuity and commonality, and (2) rupture and alterity in group identities, so that affirmations of identity become provisional standpoints for political engagement that remain open to reformation. Chapter 3 applies this attention to Asian identities, arguing that they are inevitably hybrid, multiple, and dynamic. Chapter 4 applies the same insights to develop a postcolonial vision of feminist theology, which rejects essentialized identities and binary oppositions in favour of multiple hybrid notions of identity and understands oppressions as intertwined, multifaceted, and external forces that are often internalized in the thought of the oppressed. Postcolonial feminist theology must maintain a preferential option for the poor and universals like justice, freedom, and human rights, but without centralizing one cultural identity. Chapter 5 argues that postmodern rejections of absolute representations of truth, skepticism about grand narratives, and emphasis on the local and particular can help theology become a power-sensitive and self-critical discourse with a flexible prophetic orientation. Chapter 6 argues that theology can transcend the limits of its language, culture, and social location through dis/location, and thus it can create a diasporic consciousness enabling one to perceive what is lacking in one’s culture and social location, and thus to critically engage it. Here she introduces the notion of linguicism, arguing that the hegemony of English in much theological discourse is a form of imperialism oppressive to women of the Global South. No doubt she is correct. But she overlooks how in a context like the United Theological College in Bangalore, India, where students and scholars gather from many different linguistic backgrounds, the common use of English enables them to communicate and interact in a way that otherwise would not be possible.
Chapter 7 criticizes essentializations of Asian women, by others or themselves, as oppressive. Asian feminist theologies must become glocal by tracing oppression along the lines of race, class, sexual orientation, and gender, at home and away, and must critique oppressions in their own cultures as well as those bearing down upon them from without. Chapter 8 discusses globalization, the spread of capitalism, and the massive divide between the rich and poor. Kang notes that a global trend toward the homogenization of cultures under Western influence has provoked reactive attempts to restore/uphold indigenous cultures, which frequently buttress women’s oppression. Feminist theologies should respond to this dual challenge by shifting their attention from their cultural to their geopolitical context, attending to how their own context and issues are related to the oppression and liberation of others around the globe. Physical and discursive world travelling can enable feminist theologians to become engaged in multiple contexts and aware of their interconnections. Chapter 9 challenges the ecumenical taboo on critically [End Page 300] comparing religions. Kang argues that Christianity’s liberative potential...