Ecclesia of Women in Asia

Forum of Asian Catholic Women Theologians

Moderator: Evelyn Monteiro

Paper Presentation: Cooking/Stitching Cultures: Interculturality as a Christian Feminist Peace Praxis by Agnes M. Brazal

How globalization breeds fundamentalist ideaologies is the context of this paper which is in 3 parts:
1) What is interculturality?
•Creation of spaces
•Call for mutual listening and dialogue
•Positve transformation in view of the other
Definition by Stuart Hall: Culture as production and exchange of meanings between members of a society or a group. (Latin term: colere=to tend is first praxis before it becomes a noun.
•Globalization has brought fragmentation of national identities…
•Cross-fertilization of cultures
•Identities remain important: space/place where people speak… we are global citizens. Identity is construction or articulation process: a “suturing” or “stitching” process, e.g. quilt. This is how identity can be constructed, e.g. the Subanen (non-Islamized group) legend of common ancestry. Yet even in differences, there is shared similarity. There are unities in difference… which can be understood.
•Identities: positional, conditional construction of a collective will through differences. Third space=in between space of cultural meaning/identity (e.g. Mindanawon identity)
•Cooking: images of salad bowl, you retain you don’t change. For interculturality is the “menudo” chowder. Some chunks remain, some dissolve.
•Pierre Bourdieu: Habitus, cultural unconscious = e.g. way of walking, eating, accent; Capital: economic, social political = e.g. Muslims in Pakistan not the same as Muslims in Australia. How culture change occur? Through “reflexivity” = advocating dialogue with other cultural groups.
•Interculturality goes beyond binary of thinking in “us” and “they”.

2) Interculurality as Feminist Process
Women = responsible for maintaining relationships; e.g. migration context, socialize and team language faster.
Biological reasons for women being better
Promotes for heterogeneity.

3) Trinity as model of intercultural relations
Heart of doctrine of trinity: relationality. The “father” cannot be one without a “son”, etc. Trinity as community in mutual self-giving, open to inclusion of one another.
Equality in Diversity: kapwa—similar but different. 3 kapwa and 1 loob. When a person has a good loob, she can relate well with one another.
Pakikipagkapwa in the Trinity.
Welcoming of others who do not belong to one’s circle.
Creativity/fecundity based on St. Bonaventure: mutual interpersonal relations and in-dwelling. Because we reflect the Trinity, we are llikewise creative and fecund.

Clarification:
Annette: 1 Ethnic group in Mindanao? Why emphasize this? Is it OK to call non-Islamized indigenous groups.
Agnes: there are 3 groups called “lumad”; these are not Islamized like the other tribes in Mindanao.

Sophie: Non-Islamized is a negative term. A more politically correct term is “indigenous peoples with traditional beliefs.”

Annette: women pick up language faster? Is this based on research or the way you see it?
Agnes: If you take them in similar situations, then you can compare re: facility of language.

Virginia: There are a lot of stitching of cultures in inter-culture and inter-religious marriages, which broadens the faith community.

Pushpa: Reference to “in-between” space should only be a space of commonality. Can it be a space of celebration? Cultures are presented that it could not be negotiated. How many people have the power to negotiate cultures?
Agnes: Forming ‘ghettoes’ is another way of going against being assimilated by culture.

Astrid: In celebration of differences, you expand your identity. Differences can be more important than commonality for moving into common space. Using differences to come to a new platform.
Agnes: Identities are not politicized, it becomes so when there is competition for economic resources.

Evelyn: How identities can be constructed. Another thing, like in the a.m. session, TRINITY has come up… we can keep this in mind as well.


Paper Presentation: PRACTISING PEACE IN THE NARRATIVES of GLBTQ PERSONS towards an Epistemology of the Body – Sharon Bong

Share the voices of the people I have interviewed.
Research aim:
•Negotiate tension between sexuality and faith in same-sex unions or partnerships
Paper is in 2 sections:
•1) Peace as the absence of conflict
•2) Peace through conflict—sometimes the means to achieve peace is not so peaceful.

Survey: 30 ‘Desiring subjects’ –all names are anonymous; interviewees from Singapore are from a ‘gay church’. Demographics of Malaysia-Singapore: a lot of cultural stitching happening because of multi-religious, multi-racial context.

GLBTIQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersex=with 2 reproductive organs; queer or questioning a particular sexual orientation.

1) Peace: absence of conflict. Use binaries terms=some of these are problematic
In order not to ‘rock the boat’ choice of silence.

For peace’s sake practise ‘compulsary heterosexuality’ = rewards for compliance and sanctions for non-compliance.
Peace/conflict
Safeguard family name
Making profane what others consider sacred, esp. on the church.

2) Peace through Conflict
Peace beautifully becomes the effect=once they stop living a lie; challenge church’s notion of doctrinal complementarity of the sexes.
Peace as effect of dismantling ‘compulsary heterosexuality’ (reward for non-compliance)
At peace with self: reconciliation sexuality-spirituality—epistemology of the sacred body (epistemic privilege). Religion becomes a source of sexual freedom.

CLARIFICATION:
Deborah: Are there any ‘holy’ spaces where you conducted your survey?
Sharon: this is not a nationwide survey; it was done in a gay-affirming church where it is a safe place.

Agnes: Phil.and Thailand GLBTIQ are more accepted. Thailand has 3rd sex. In Malaysia during pre-colonial times, how was it?
Sharon: I don’t have direct access to them although I have a friend who does it. Interestingly, it is more liberalized. At present, in Malaysia there is encroaching Islamization: sexually marginal are the ones who are

Annette: The second one ‘peace through conflict’, does it still mean ‘absence of conflict’?
Sharon: Qualifying peace to be in terms with oneself. For J, she doesn’t define peace as no longer the absence of conflict, but because she’s fully out in the gay church, she’s purely at peace of herself, she uses this embodied experience of peace that in her walk with God, this is God’s affirmation of her sexuality. With the support of a faith community, she has moved away from compulsory heterosexuality, peace is no longer the absence of conflict.

Intan: some peoples in 3rd sex, sometimes bi-sexual, sometimes hetero… When one is like this, how is this relationship called?
Sharon: I don’t know if I can do justice with all your questions. Very quickly, queer is used becaue it is more inclusive term. However, this is not true all the time, but the GLBT is lost. Sexuality is very fluid, the process of engaging with the 30 individuals, I question everything that I take for granted. BI=not to be treated in the same way as homosexuals, sexuality for them is more fluid.

There was a spontaneous suggestion for us to stand and sing “Holy Ground”

Paper Presentation: “Interrupting Normal Ways of Thinking: Resistance and Asian Women’s Struggle for Peace and Liberation” by Gemma Tulud Cruz

Abstract: The essay explores marginalized cultural forms of resistance among Asian women and the possibilities they offer in articulating an Asian feminist theology of liberation. It begins with the unpacking of “hidden (cultural) transcripts” that Asian women creatively utilize to mitigate their oppression which often escapes positive theological scrutiny and priority. This section specifically tackles silence, humor and laughter, and stories, songs, and dance as Asian women’s “weapons” in their struggle for liberation. The essay then proceeds to offer some theological reflections on how these creative strategies of resistance are valid and significant sources in doing feminist liberation theology in Asia, in general, and how they challenge us to re-think contemporary theological reflections on what constitutes resistance and liberation, in particular.

3 parts:
1) framework: no peace without justice
2) expressions of the concept of women’s “weapons” in their struggle for liberation
3) silence, humor and laughter, stories, songs, dance

Frame of reference Scott used: politics of disguise and anonymity that subjugated people use. “Weapons of the Weak”: offer you three:
1) SILENCE – impoverishment if we marginalize ‘silence’. In other forms of resistance, ‘silence’ is a component. Concrete experiences of Asian women, e.g. Cordillera women. No words needed, protest was clothed in silence and was effective. We associate protest with words. Silence can speak a thousand of words. Silence can be used as a hidden transcript.
2) HUMOR and LAUGHTER – they can be escapist, a toleration of one’s oppression. One example: Filipino domestic workers have published a book of jokes. “Goodbye mother of 5;” goodbye father of 3. Arbuckle, Laughter of God, can be prophetic because it is subversive. Laughter of the oppressed: indication of redemption’s already aspect is as real as redemption’s not-yet; also highlights the oppressed as children of God and rejected of humanity. “Laughter is hope’s last weapon.”
3) The trilogy of STORIES, SONGS, and DANCE—story-telling is part and parcel of truth-telling. One important steps in addressing apartheid, story-telling is healing. SONGS can be harmless, but it is the language of the song, it can speak the unspeakable. DANCE goes along with songs. Parliament of the streets is not all rah, rah, rah, but can be Songs and Dance.
They are rendered ineffective because they are not considered normal ways of thinking. Not to see in binary way, imbedded but part of resistance. Ways of questioning, finding, insisting on the sacred in the daily grind of everyday living.

Nunuk: explain more about normal ways of thinking, because normal seems to be is right and good; but same as mainstream means of thinking, but depends on the rural imperative. Ideology of thinking. Second, silence in Javanese culture, I fought a long time to be able to speak up. Silence can give opportunity to the injustice in my experience. Explain more about the hidden culture and the resistance. There must be something behind this. Silence makes me repressed for a long time, until I can speak up.

Gemma: First of all, what I am trying to say ‘normal’ is ‘right’. What is ‘normal’ and what is conventional might hide what is wrong. Mainstream can be the status-quo, you have to rock the boat and stir the water. About your experience. I am talking about a different kind of silence.

Metti: For a woman who is suffering from beating, silence is a value imposed on women. Women who do not question are considered. Can you qualify what you mean by ‘silence’? Woman who exhibit laughter can be considered by culture as ‘loose women’. “A woman who laughs in public is a loose woman.”

Gemma: Definitely what I am saying, silence in that sense is not acceptable, not an act of resistance. In that case, laughter is very tricky. This is on a case-to-case basis.

Grace: I want to share the experience of “silence”. With migrant workers, I have an experience of how this is used.

Astrid: I just want to respond to what Metti said. We have many experience of women in India using ‘silence’, e.g. hugging the trees because they did not want the trees to be cut.
Metti: But there is action connected there. Silence used with symbols.

PLENARY SESSION: Insights/Interventions


Metti: With regard to peace that comes from within, to be at peace with oneself. When it comes to women in the villages, and speak to them, what do men say? Men will say: “why do you come to disturb them?” They have accepted their situation. Everything that we speak, for all the women who are struggling, slugging their way through.

Nonnie: Happy with the initials that Sharon talked about, broke the silence on that. We tried to make connections with inculturality that you have talked about, I was happy to have new terms, such as third space… How does inculturality theory for people who are searching for their own identity.

Grace: Silence and laughter, etc. not necessarily it has to be accompanied always by symbolic action. The group found the topic this afternoon, heavy issues like human sexuality, cultural conditioning. What is this new identity we are talking about. What are the factors that form our identity. Who would determine the factors. Basically=who am I? We have multiple-identity, not just one. The secret is to know how to go in and out of our various identities, that would be a way of living rather than to be firm on one identity which would create conflicts. In Asia, because of our very diverse cultures/religions, so much pluralism, it is quite natural for us to be fluid, unlike the West. We also recognize, that now in Asia, we are moving into inflexibility due to the rise of fundamentalism and creating the conflicts.

Evelyn: Peace from within and peace with oneself; silence as a form of resistance=could this be used as a paradigm for all women? Identity re: in-between space; most of us have multiple identities, shifting one to the other. Do any one of the

Rosalyn: God gave us all the gifts that we’ve got esp. freedom/peace in the heart, etc. My body is also a gift to me for use for myself and for others. When we speak about sexuality, about our peace of heart/mind, it is a matter of the inner being but also it is in another level. In one sense peace of heart, everybody understands it in the same way. When we speak about sexuality and there is violence, e.g. child is born, the mother take all the troubles, but sometimes father gets angry, why not make child sleep. We have to equate what is peace. If we understand what it is, then we can give it to others.

Agnes: In between space is usually applied to ethnic identity. As a result of the study, most of us are in-between. Secondly, identity, how is this formed? This is always in relation with others… mirroring of the other.

Gemma: Not silence per se, part of the series of acts. My main position is that: for so long, in the examples I have presented, there is an action that is part of that silence. The whole idea of it is not just absolutely labeling silence as non-resistance. The moment we conflate it, it can become problematic.

Pushpa: We’re also grappling here with limited linguistic structures. The exercise Gemma did was reinvesting some of the words with prophetic meaning. There is a prophetic value of peace. We as women are still conditioned.

Sophie: There is something about the daily life that we need to recover, including the silence, cleaning. I keep on hearing this issue of silence… It is important to have silence and action at the same time. This is a problem that a lot of women experience, we need to protect ourselves and be silent for sometime. There is a going forward and a withdrawing. We need to give ourselves time to rest.

Astrid: Reflecting on the silence, looking at the gospels, looking at examples when Jesus was silence combined with action. Jesus before Pilate, I wonder what that silence meant?

Sharon: I am not sure if there was a question directed at me. I appreciate your persistence on the point of ‘silence’. Extension of your desire to concretize that we’re talking about. There are times when a woman/man chooses to be silent, this is where the agency is coming from. When we’re talking about GBTIQ we’re talking about crossing boundaries, we just theorize about that. The whole question of sexuality is just so unaffirmed.

Annette: Question came up to me with regard to identity and to plural-identity. When we talk of male-female we talk of constructs. We had research in Germany: our primary education is totally done by women, we found out that when they go to higher education, they don’t know how to deal with the opposite sex because some of the teachers are male. Haven’t we overcome this traditional construction of gender?

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