Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology edited by Kwok Pui Lan
Article first published online: 1 MAR 2013
© 2013 Wiley Periodicals and Dialog, Inc.
Volume 52, Issue 1, pages 74–76, March 2013
How to Cite
Carbine, R. P. (2013), Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology edited by Kwok Pui Lan. Dialog, 52: 74–76. doi: 10.1111/dial.12015
- Issue published online: 1 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 1 MAR 2013
Kwok Pui Lan, editor . Hope Abundant: Third World and Indigenous Women's Theology . Maryknoll , N.Y. : Orbis Books , 2010 . 276 pages .
Nearly twenty-five years ago, the Women's Commission of the Ecumenical Association of Third World Theologians (EATWOT) held the Intercontinental Conference of Women Theologians of the Third World. That conference yielded With Passion and Compassion: Third World Women Doing Theology, edited by Virginia Fabella and Mercy Amba Oduyoye (Orbis, 1988). Evoking and expanding on that groundbreaking work, Hope Abundant stands as a unique and unparalleled anthology of contemporary global feminist movements that particularly highlights indigenous women's theological reflections and praxis from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and Latin America. Women's varied experiences of and struggles with poverty, violence, sexual injustice, political and civil strife, war, and cultural alienation (e.g., displacement and genocide) are applied to critically examine and reconstruct a wide range of theological topics that characterize each part of the book, namely context and method, scripture, Christology, the body, sexuality, and spirituality.
Asian feminist theologian Kwok Pui Lan selected seventeen essays, published near or at the turn of the twenty-first century, in order to weave together the different threads of Third World and indigenous women's theologies into a rich tapestry of “glocal” feminist theologies, in which global and local realities and religions merge to forge relations of solidarity among different women in the pursuit of justice. The essays are organized into four parts thematically, rather than continentally or regionally, because many contributors consider issues and contexts in their essays that go beyond the bounds of specific regions; thus readers are enabled to draw comparative transnational connections among the irreducible plurality of these theologies.
Part 1 illuminates the varied contexts and methods of African, Asian, Latin American, and Native American women who seek inclusivity and community amid patriarchal discourses and practices, particularly of nation building in the Native American context. Part 2 presents a wide range of strategies for feminist biblical hermeneutics, from post-colonial methods used by scholars in Africa, Native America, and Mexico, to biblical storytelling and role-play among Dalit women in India, to readings of the exodus as a narrative of liberation or occupation in Palestinian-Israeli relations. Part 3 elaborates the hybrid Christologies that arise from the combination of Christianity with African, Asian, Australian aboriginal, and Afro-Cuban religions and popular traditions. Finally, Part 4 addresses imperative theological and ethical issues pertaining to theological anthropology, especially the body, sexuality, and spirituality. These essays pay particular attention to women and the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, feminist and faith-based sexual decision-making in China, women's rights to reproductive healthcare as human rights in Brazil, and women's spirituality in the service of justice in the Philippines.
Unifying this collection of essays, this book intentionally utilizes the term “Third World” to describe this work in global feminist theology as a means to highlight the historical legacies of colonialism as well as the ongoing realities and impacts of globalization and its host of related socio-political, economic, and ecological issues, including religious fundamentalisms, which these women identify and resist from an alternative or “third space” (2–6). Going beyond literal geographic or regional meanings, Kwok Pui Lan states in the introduction that “the term ‘Third World’ can also be used metaphorically to convey a ‘third space,’ a space that is not bound by a binary mindset or dualistic and hierarchical constructions. Homi Bhabha calls the ‘Third Space’ the in-between space, which questions established categorizations of culture and identity and opens up the possibilities of renegotiating power and creating new cultural meanings”(2).
The essays reflect established and emerging voices of both scholars and activists in Catholic and Protestant groups who break open this space to “articulate their vision that a more inclusive and alternative world is possible” (6). This alternative world initially takes shape in the book via method: “engendering cultural hermeneutics” analyzes global cultural views of gender roles, norms, and power with special attention to the role of women in inculturating Christianity around the globe (Chapter 1); and postcolonial theory studies gender complexities with regard to women as both colonized objects and colonizing subjects due to identity markers (race, class, culture, sexuality, and so on) that produce both their oppression and privilege and that promote intercultural violence between groups (especially Chapters 2, 4, 5, 8, 9). The contours and convictions of this alternative just world come into clearer focus at the advent of each part. The book underscores that feminist theologies always have participated in theological aesthetics by opening each part with a poem or prayer that not only focuses that part's theme but also envisions the just world these women hope to establish, theologically and politically. The poem that opens Part 1, written by Ghanaian Mercy Amba Oduyoye about the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, captures this vision, which the book itself enacts: “A Circle expands forever/It covers all who wish to hold hands/And its size depends on each other/It is a vision of solidarity … ./A circle, a vision of cooperation, mutuality, and care” (17).
Throughout the book, the reader gets a glimpse of the theo-ethical beliefs, practices, and spirituality that animate the world that these essays envision. In her essay, Brazilian feminist theologian Ivone Gebara cautions against unrealistic hope, given the persistent obstacles to creating this world, such as deeply embedded patriarchal norms and structures that coerce most feminist struggles to opt for “a politics of survival, even at the level of religious institutions, instead of a politics of confrontation and ethical demand for structural change” (54). Nevertheless, in the book's final essay, Carmelita Usog of the Philippines expresses a continued commitment to contest with intransigent religious and social frameworks, and thereby emphasizes the theo-political viability of feminist struggles:
Armed with compassion and commitment to work for a better and transformed society, one hopes for the coming of God's basileia (kin-dom) of God. … It [a spirituality of justice] resists dehumanization and fulfills the quest for self-discovery, self-affirmation, and self-inclusion, for all of us in the human community have the urge to live and to live fully as human beings. The core of a spirituality of justice touches the deepest part of ourselves and allows God, who resides in each one of us, to move us to wholeness while we also work for wholeness in our community and society (262, 263).
In this book, new ways of reading sacred texts, of reconstructing religious symbols, and of living into new practices, including liturgy and ethics, collectively give an account of the hope that sustains global women's struggles to call—if only fleetingly—an alternative world into reality.