Reconstructing Asian feminist theology1 toward a glocal feminist theology in an era of neoEmpires

Namsoon Kang

Feminism is a major philosophical, political, social and religious movement which requires a profound intellectual conversion ... It calls for a redefinition of power and authority and for a redistribution of power.

Kaye Ashe

To make the liberated voice, one must confront the issue of audience -we must know to whom we speak .. . When I thought about audience - the way in which the language we choose to use declares who it is we place at the center of our discourse - I confronted my fear of placing myself and other black women at the speaking center.

bell hooks

PROBLEMATIZING 'ASIAN-WOMEN'

.Asian feminist theology, like any other theology, is always in the making. The history of Asian theological engagement with feminism is in short supply and has not been explored in great detail in the various disciplines of theology over the last few decades. Asian feminist theology has emerged in the context of an ecumenical movement. Theologically trained women raised the issue of the invisibility of women in the Asian ecumenical

I will use the word Asian in italics in Asian feminist theology to denote its contestable and stereotypical nature when it is used in different types of Asian theological discourses such as Asian feminist theology or Asian theology. As Asia can never be regarded as a monolithic entity, it is very often misleading and even distorting to define in a monolithic way that what constitutes Asia is 'overwhelming poverty' and 'multifaceted religiosity' in Asian discourse. For a more lengthy discussion of this issue, see Namsoon Kang, 'Who/What Is Asian: A Postcolonial Theological Reading of Orientalism and Neo-Orientalism', in Catherine Keller, Michael Nausner and Mayra Rivera (eds.), Postcolonial Theologies: Divinity and Empire (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2004), pp. 100—117.

movement and its institutions. While western feminist theological discourse was developed by individuals with a theological and biblical critique of the sexist and patriarchal system both in theology and the church,2 Asian feminist theology did not raise a theological agenda per se at the beginning of its development. The main issues were bringing women out from invisibility to visibility in ecumenical organizations such as the CCA (Christian Conference of Asia). The 'woman question' in Christianity in Asia was first raised in 1977 at the Sixth Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) General Assembly in Penang with the following statement:

Even though Christ restored the image of women, the church consciously and unconsciously still refuses to accept the real status of women. It has almost completely disregarded the wholeness which Christ has brought about.3

This statement was followed by an official request at the Seventh CCA General Assembly in Bangalore, India, in 1981:

Asian women have remained backward and marginalized in all sectors of society. Thus, women's concerns pose an enormous task for responsible Christians in Asia. The Christian Conference of Asia can best respond to this challenge by creating a specific program for women's concerns and appointing a full-time executive staff.4

For the first time in the history of the CCA, the organization set up an official Desk for Women's Concerns in 1981. The first anthology of Asian feminist theology, We Dare to Dream: Doing Feminist Theology As Asian Women, was published in 1990.5 It is important to note, however, that Asian feminist theological discourse written in English shows only a very small part of what has been done in Asia simply because the majority of

I do not intend to offer in this chapter an overall history of the development of feminist theological discourse either in the west or in Asia. For more details on the historical development of the women's movement and feminist theology in the west, see Rosemary Radford Ruether, Women and Redemption: A Theological History (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1998), chapters 5, 6 and 7; and in Asia, see Angela Wai Ching Wong, 'Women Doing Theology with the Asian Ecumenical Movement', in Ninan Koshy (ed.), A History of the Ecumenical Movement in Asia, vol. II (Hong Kong: CCA, 2004), pp. 85—114 and Pui-Lan Kwok, Introducing Asian Feminist Theology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2000).

Christian Conference of Asia, Christian Conference of Asia Sixth Assembly, Penang (Singapore: CCA, 1977), p. 103.

Christian Conference of Asia, Christian Conference of Asia Seventh Assembly, Bangalore (Singapore: CCA, 1981), p. 116.

Virginia Fabella and Sun Ai Lee Park (eds.), We Dare to Dream: Doing Theology as Asian Women (Maryknoll: Orbis, 1990).

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