Exploring the Tensions between Feminisms and Religiosity

Lehigh University’s College of Arts and Sciences is hosting a conference on women and religion called “Feminisms Beyond the Secular,” March 21-23, 2016, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

The conference grew out of conversations between Lehigh professors Jackie Krasas and Nandini Deo while they were on a faculty delegation visit to universities in India. Deo is an associate professor of political science and Krasas is the associate dean of interdisciplinary programs and international initiatives and the former director of the women, gender and sexuality studies program.

The conference is part of the CAS’s “Join the Dialogue” series, which highlights disparate views on important issues.

“We wanted a timely and important topic that would pull in activists and scholars from a range of different disciplines and different areas of the world, be intellectually engaging to an interdisciplinary audience, and help us foster collaborative relationships with some of the institutions that we and other Lehigh faculty have visited,” explains Krasas.

“The narrative of mainstream, white Western feminism has been that religion is something that oppresses women—that it’s something that only oppresses women,” she adds. “How do you account for and be inclusive of women for whom religiosity and spirituality are very important in their lives? This conference is a chance to engage with more nuanced and diverse perspectives.”

The three-day conference will include paper presentations, panels and workshops. So far, the committee has received papers from around the world, including Afghanistan, Egypt, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Namibia.

Confirmed speakers include Neera Chandoke, professor of political science and director of the Developing Countries Research Centre at the University of Delhi; Srimati Basu, professor of anthropology and gender and women’s studies at the University of Kentucky; Sarala Krishnamurthy, professor of English, Namibia University of Science and Technology, and Jasbir Paur, associate professor of women’s and gender studies Rutgers University.

The committee is planning an immersive, interactive conference that will not only add to scholarly discourse about feminisms and religion, but also build connections among researchers at the different universities and create opportunities for student engagement.

“I’m really excited and surprised by the depth of this,” says Krasas. “It’s not just us partnering with one university or drawing scholars from one other country. We’ve brought together a unique blend—Ghana and India, Egypt and Afghanistan, the Netherlands. It will be really rich because it’s international as well as interdisciplinary. I think those conversations across disciplines and across nations really make you learn a lot about your own approaches too.”

More details are available on the conference website.