PAPERS Resources

AAR Annual Meeting
San Diego, CA
November 23-26, 2019

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Lesbian-Feminisms and Religion Unit

Statement of Purpose: 

For over 25 years this unit has been committed to lesbian-feminism in the study of religion. Whether pursued through religious studies, social-scientific, historical, or theological methods during the approach to the academic study of religion, lesbian-feminist scholarship challenges hegemonic discourse within gay, lesbian, and queer movements that function to privilege queer theory as capable of eclipsing theories and methodologies that are explicitly feminist in the face of entrenched patriarchy and self-consciously lesbian in the face of persistent maleness and heteronormativity. We are especially committed to scholars and scholarship that advance people of color, persons with disabilities, decoloniality, and economic justice. This is accomplished with diverse and timely themes, and by providing a theoretical space for probing and further developing the openings and opportunities afforded by changing sociopolitical and theoretical contexts.

Call for Papers: 

What is distinctive about lesbian-feminist methodology? In Living a Feminist Life, Sara Ahmed writes, "in order to survive what we come up against, in order to build worlds from the shattered pieces, we need a revival of lesbian feminism” (213). After revisiting critiques of lesbian-feminism, Ahmed asserts that lesbian-feminism is necessary for our present political moment. It is a methodology, she argues, that integrates public and private by imparting the tools needed to interpret lived experiences. For Ahmed, “queer experience might be better articulated as lesbian experience or something women in particular experience” (215). The terms “queer” and “intersectionality” have been embraced in the study of religion as useful and malleable concepts. However, if we heed Ahmed’s suggestion with Jennifer Nash (Black Feminism Reimagined: after intersectionality) and others, the over use of these terms de-centers the very populations that they were coined to illuminate such that feminism becomes entrenched in a progress narrative; lesbian-feminism is presumed to be passé, the term “women of color” expands Black feminism, and so on. Rather than regulating knowledge as property, Ahmed and Nash invite readers to return to the purpose and value of feminism. Lesbian-feminism and Black feminist theory’s visionary world-making possibilities are at stake. Ahmed and Nash’s insights suggest that scholars of religion engage in the creative process of imagining and advancing something new. We invite critical and constructive papers that engage Ahmed and Nash’s scholarship to consider lesbian-feminist methodologies old and new for the study of religion, pedagogy, and activism. Topics might include affect, embodiment, complaint, killjoy, defensiveness, love ethics, crip theory, trauma studies, decoloniality, performance art, positive psychology, happiness studies, pleasure activism. We are especially interested in proposals from underrepresented populations.

Co-sponsored session with Islam, Women, & Gender
Feminist methods and attention to gender within Islamic studies are well established. Scholars and activists have contributed to inquiries into the politics of visibility, homonationalism, decolonialism, gender representation, and the veil (e.g., Jasbir Puar, Saba Mahmood, and Ranjana Khanna). However, as a method and politics lesbian-feminisms remains underrepresented. Outside of religious studies, feminist theorists Sara Ahmed, Robyn Wiegman, and Jennifer Nash critique progress narratives that denigrate lesbian-feminisms; instead, they call for a return to this corpus in order to build a more just society. We are interested in what this might mean for Islamic studies. How might lesbian-feminisms and Islamic studies mutually inform each other? Scholars such as Gabeba Baderoon, Jin Haritaworn, Shanon Shah, Poala Bacchetta, and Krupa Shandilya explore the intersection of lesbian-feminisms with the field of Islamic studies. Proposals might build upon their insights, or propose new possibilities, concerns, and aims. We are especially interested in proposals from scholars of color, graduate students, contingent faculty, and queer and trans scholars.

Method: 
PAPERS
Other
Process: 
Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members
Comments: 
We have informed our committee that co-chairs will not submit to our sessions due to the conflict of interest. While committee members are encouraged to apply, they must refrain from evaluating their own submissions.
Leadership: 
ChairSteering Committee