„I am asking you to live in the presence of reality, an invigorating life.“
– Virginia Woolf

In many religions, the symbolization of gender and sexuality is strongly institutionalized, due in a large measure to religious notions of transcendence. The religious symbolization of gender reflects an androcentric understanding of the world which hampers social change in this realm. Time and again, women* and LGBT*persons have to struggle rigorously for acceptance and equality of opportunity in the hierarchy of the religious social order. Furthermore, on the level of social life, religion is consistently made relevant by legitimating assumed natural gender differences (as for example in the recent declaration of the congregation for Catholic education on the ‘question of gender theory in education’). As a consequence, feminist research has responded to religion with a certain amount of reserve. This also holds true for feminist analyses of religion(s); often, they are not regarded as a constituent part of feminist studies. Accordingly, feminism and religion seem not to be compatible. Instead, feminism – understood as a programmatic approach which is inherently connected to an enlightened, egalitarian modernity – seems to go hand in hand with secularism, although the promise of gender equality does not obtain insofar as it includes an androcentric bias. 

The special issue of feministische studien focuses on these complex, but scarcely discussed connections between feminism, secularism, and religion. In order to get to the bottom of the interdependencies and tensions between religious and non-religious worldviews, the special issue invites contributions that shed light on the problem from different contexts and theoretical perspectives.

Hence, feminist approaches in the religious sphere often disappear from view: how women* and LGBT*persons in varying religious contexts are reshaping and transforming religious gender arrangements, or how they are fighting to shift religious notions of sexuality and change religious gender codes—whether on the level of religious organizations, religious practices, or religious knowledge—how they question power relations, demand rights and recognition, or take over social space in the religious domain, does often meet a negative response in secular feminism. Moreover, it seems to be difficult to understand from a secular feminist perspective, how religion is experienced as a resource of practiced emancipation, lived equality and freedom, or how the turn to religion could also align with a feminist approach. Finally, a dialogue between secular and religious women* becomes impossible, when secular feminism envisions itself as neutral.

The aim is to contribute to a deeper understanding between secular and religious feminist approaches. This subject unfolds against the backdrop of an intensifying problematization of religious gender relations in the context of migration and asylum discourses, whether on the global or on the local level, recognizing in particular that ‘Islam’ and the ‘Islamic gender order’ have become the epitome of racialization and othering. Secular feminism must deal carefully with racism and antisemitism; this also means, to engage in introspection regarding its own reproduction of white, colonial, anti-Islamic, or anti-Semitic patterns of thinking and the resulting symbolic modes of boundary making between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Likewise, religious feminisms cannot evade the possibility of varying approaches to gender difference and (in)equality. This also includes a consideration of the relationship between feminism and Christianity. 

Accordingly, we invite theoretical and empirically based contributions that

●          critically reconstruct the rejection of religious feminist positions and racialising forms of boundary making between secular and religious feminisms; 

●          relate secular and religious feminisms to each other in a constructive way and focus on common characteristics and similarities;

●          discuss feminist theologies and feminist religious movements in a nuanced way concerning their positions that are critical of religion and

●          analyse the relation between feminism, secularism, and religion historically as well as with respect to contemporary times. 

Submission and timetable

We kindly invite to submit abstracts (300 – 500 words) until 15th October 2019to 

manuskripte@feministische-studien.deas well as to 

heidemarie.winkel@uni-bielefeld.de and angelika.poferl@tu-dortmund.de

Invitations to submit full papers will be send out until 15th November 2019.

Full papers of max. 40.000 characters need to be submitted by 15th August 2020.

Papers will be selected through peer review. 

For further information please contact Prof. Dr. Heidemarie Winkel (heidemarie.winkel@uni-bielefeld.de), Prof. Dr. Angelika Poferl (angelika.poferl@tu-dortmund.de) or Dr. Aline Oloff (aline.oloff@tu-berlin.de).