Toward A Glocal Feminist Theology As A Discourse Of Resistance And Liberation

One of the threatening things in feminist theological movements for me is when we feminists refuse to change ourselves while we try to change the world. Many people, whether men or women, or western or Asian, exist in a painful ambiguity both as colonizers and colonized. Those who ignore the multiple power relations involved in empire-building fail to provide an epistemology for the task of the transformation of existing reality. In a postcolonial context, we cannot deny that '''[w]e'' do not quite know who is ''us'' and who is ''them'''. In an era of globalization, it is also undeniable that '[n]either race nor language can any longer define nationality'.35 Although an Empire through one nation's hegemony is dominating the rest of the world, it is our reality that we in fact are both a part of the Empire and have our own empire(s) within/among ourselves.

In this context, one's geographical location is no longer a parameter in constructing feminist theological discourse. Rather, a feminist theological construction today need not be in accordance with a specific geographical territory. In an era of globalization, geographical boundaries are beginning to blur through the displacement of peoples. Through the dislocation, relocation, and translocation of peoples with diverse cultures and religions, the old context for Asian feminist theology has been changed. The direction of this theology, which has invested so much in geographical locations, the fixed identity of 'as-Asian-women' and Asian indigenous cultures and resources, should be radically redirected. The old paradigm of Asian feminist theology has been a 'localist/nativist position' in which the major resources for theological construction are directed only at local culture and tradition. In this localist/nativist approach, Asian feminist theology has had a tendency to romanticize, idealize and glorify the local and discredit the west. A sharp contrast between Asia and the west has been its typical approach. I would argue that this kind of theological nativism still functions and continues to imprison not only the 'other culture' but also its own 'vernacular culture' within entirely geographically deterministic and culturally essentialist discursive boundaries.

Feminist theological discourse in Asia must commit itself to two simultaneous projects: an internal critique of the hegemonic kyriarchy of the theologians' own local cultures and societies, and the formulation of historically and contextually grounded feminist theological concerns and

Keller et al. (eds.), Postcolonial Theologies, p. 1.

strategies for overcoming gender injustice in theological discourse, theological and ecumenical institutions, and the church, which can provide an alternative vision of the world and of Christianity. While the first project is a process of deconstruction, the second one is a process of reconstruction. Asian feminist theological discourse has a further task on a global level: to present the complex reality and hybrid experience of Asian women in their respective contexts and their feminist theological quest, enquiries and hopes to the peoples of the globe.

I would like finally to propose a glocal feminist theology, in which the global context and the local context are proactively combined to resist Empire(s) of all forms and to strengthen solidarity with the women and the marginalized who are dislocated and displaced, either physically or ontologically, and whose lives have been destroyed and diminished by the power of various forms of Empire(s). What I envision for a glocal feminist theology is trans-national, trans-regional, trans-cultural and trans-religious. In order to carry out this vision for a glocal feminist theology, the following tasks are to be taken into account.

First, Asian feminist theology as glocal feminist theology needs to articulate a comprehensive empire-discourse that recognizes that Asian feminist theologians' local activities are interlinked with a global geopolitical reality. Asian women must not give up the claim that material life not only structures but sets limits on the understanding of social relations, and that, in systems of domination and subjugation, the vision available to the emperors/rulers will be both partial and will reverse the real order of things. The ruling Empire(s), in terms of race, class and gender, actively structure the material-social relations in which we all are forced to participate, wittingly or unwittingly. We have to acknowledge, as Antonio Gramsci points out in his theory of hegemony, that empirebuilding has been possible not just by force but by our consent as well.36 The vision of ruling Empire(s), therefore, cannot be dismissed as simply false or misguided. A binary position of 'us versus them' can be a misreading of our ambivalent reality. The colonized/oppressed group must struggle for their own understandings, which will represent achievements

In his Prison Notebooks, Gramsci writes, 'It seems clear ... that there can, and indeed must be hegemonic activity even before the rise of power, and that one should not count only on the material force which power gives in order to exercise an effective leadership.' His theory of hegemony shows how dominant groups or individuals can maintain their hegemony by persuading the governed to accept, adopt and internalize their values and norms, which is considered one of the great lessons taught by Gramsci. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci, Quintin Hoare and Geoffrey Nowell Smith (eds.) (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1971), p. 57.

requiring both theorizing and the education which grows from political struggle and engagement.

Second, Asian feminist theology as glocal feminist theology needs fiercely to engage in the historical, socio-political and theoretical process of constituting us women as subjects as well as objects of our specific history -both local and global, which are inextricably interlinked especially in an era of globalization. Glocal feminist theology needs to sort out who Asian women really are. We Asian women need to dissolve the false 'WE' into its real multiplicity and variety. And out of this concrete multiplicity of 'I's, we need to build an account of the world as seen from the margins, an account which can expose the falseness of the view from the top and can transform the margins as well as the centre. The history of the margin-alization of Asian women will work against creating a totalizing discourse both by Asians and westerners. Asian women need to name and present/ represent continuously and persistently their diverse experiences of multiple colonization and struggle.

Third, Asian feminist theology as glocal feminist theology needs to construct a discourse of power for women, and for the colonized of various types, that is a call for transformation and participation in altering the power relations of domination and subjugation in multiple forms. Through this comprehensive power-discourse, this theology is able to offer a better illustration of how neo-imperialism works, and how neoEmpire and Empire(s) as ideological domination succeed the best without physical coercion, without territorial invasion, without actually capturing the bodies and the minds of Asian women. The apparent absence of the 'enemy' in an era of neo-Empire(s) as such requires more sophisticated and comprehensive power-discourse.

Fourth, Asian feminist theology needs to shift from a politics of identity to a politics of solidarity, from as-discourse to with-discourse. With-discourse requires adopting 'we-hermeneutics', which interprets life and its opportunities and challenges in the light of the self and the community.37 'We-hermeneutics' is a challenge to acknowledge our embeddedness in community: 'I am because we are; and we are because I am.'38 Here 'we' is not based on a hierarchical/vertical relationship as is the case in Confucian culture, but on an egalitarian/horizontal democratic relationship between

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