6th Biennial Conference of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia
“Liberating Power: Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives”
November 15, Video-conference Presentations
The Power of Transformation and Transforming Power
A Malaysian Female-to-Male Transgender Person’s Narrative
Sharon A. Bong
I foreground the narrative of a Malaysian female-to-male (FTM) transgender person. Through a qualitative analysis of Jin’s interview transcript using a grounded theory methodology, the first section of the paper foregrounds the power of transformation realised through Jin’s multiple coming outs: as a radical lesbian feminist, a female-to-male transgender person and bisexual. The second section of the paper discusses how Jin transforms power as he opens up spaces of belonging within institutions, e.g. the familial, educational, faith (as a Buddhist), intra-national (or global) even virtual spaces (as a netizen of FTM transsexuals). Jin’s narrative of becoming makes visible the tenuous narrative of becoming of a nation-state that deploys a hegemonic discourse of gender and sexuality which privileges a stable, heterosexual subject engaged in sanctioned heterosexual relations – marriage and procreation – for the sake of nation-building. As such, the State’s rhetoric and practice of respecting differences that matter are markedly disparate. Jin, in living out his hyphenated identity as everyday practices, reclaims ‘inclusive citizenship’ and potentially calls to question the extent to which not only gender and sexual pluralism but also ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism are accorded legitimacy. In doing so, transforming power through the power of transformation not only realises but also radicalises the vision for a socially just, sustainable and inclusive Malaysia. Jin’s transgenderism resonates with the late Marcella Althaus-Reid’s decolonising of theology in The Queer God (2003) where Jin embodies the power to transform or ‘alter’ one’s body to ‘fit into’ an ‘un-representable’ form, that in doing so, disrupts the hegemony of heteronormativity. De-colonising theology that fends off such hegemonic discourses, endows us with transformative power to liberate theology, recognise the other, our trans-selves and reclaim that other as holy.
Sharon A. Bong is Associate Professor in Gender Studies and Creative Writing at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University, Malaysia. She is author of The Tension Between Women’s Rights and Religions: The Case of Malaysia (2006, Edwin Mellen Press) and former Coordinator of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia, an academic forum of Catholic women theologizing in Asia.
Deafness and Deafhood in Mark 7.31-37:
“Seeing/sign World” of Filipino d/Deaf and their Narratives of
Dismemberment and Empowerment in this “Hearing/word World”
Kristine C. Meneses
The “hearing/word world” that is our world, has configured language and beliefs in a way that, disempowers the d/Deaf in our society and in the Church. Deafness has been viewed as a medical/pathological condition which has to be healed or repaired. Audism or the superiority “based on one’s ability to hear or behave in the manner of one who hears” has rendered the Deaf as an inferior “Other.” Women’s experience of deafness is further differentiated by their class, ethnicity and gender.
This paper’s purpose is to reread Mark 7: 31-37 taking as starting point the experiences of Filipino d/Deaf, with particular attention to women. From a postcolonial perspective, our narrative and socio-rhetorical analysis will be attentive to signs of resistance or acquiescence to the “hearing/word world” both by the deaf and his friends as well as the deconstruction of binarism (deaf/hearing) in the text. This rereading will be dialogued with the Deaf’s attempts at self-definition and hopefully will help challenge our view of the d/Deaf, deafness, Deafhood, and Deaf Culture, toward an authentic solidarity with Deaf people, especially the women. Ephphatha!
Kristine C. Meneses is a PhD student at the St. Vincent School of Theology specializing in Theological Ethics, and an instructor at the University of Santo Tomas. She is also an associate member of the Catholic Biblical Association of the Philippines (CBAP). Her publication includes “Deborah Disclosed: Wife of Lapidot or Fiery Lady” (Reimagining Marriage and Family in Asia, 2008). Her main advocacy and apostolate concerns the Deaf and their welfare.
Doing Indecent Theology
Ecclesia of Women in Asia on Power and Resistance
Jeane Cana Peracullo
Despite diverse cultural frameworks the Ecclesia of Women in Asia employ on issues surrounding body and sexuality in its 2nd book, Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia (2007), the articles reflect a particular understanding of power which fits into what Gayatri Spivak deems as catachresis which she defines as “the act of ‘reversing, displacing, and seizing the apparatus of value-coding (Spivak 1990, 228). Indecent theology as catachresis in the way that EWA triangulates gender, religion and postcoloniality challenge women’s exclusion in the mainstream (masculinist) theologies as well as expose the implicit ethnocentricism in Western feminist theologies.
In its “seizing” of theology derived from Asian women experiences, EWA subverts theology in both loud (forcefully through conferences and publications) and quiet ways (style, words, methods adhere to dominant discourse). Subversion is manifested in the rejection of an idea that women ought not to be taken seriously when it comes to theologizing; subversion of a rigid liberative method in theologizing popular to third world theologians through the appeal to women’s experiences which destabilizes the almost hegemonic theology of the poor; and subversion through the deliberate re-claiming of the erotic in Asian female bodies, which for centuries have been described in colonial writings as exotic, dangerous, and mysterious; and finally subversion of feminist theology by proposing a different trajectory, a new way of seeing reality as reflected in the particularity of a woman’s experience that takes into account eros’ playful, transformative dimension which is missing in many works purportedly for women even by women.
EWA clears a space—in its very liminality, this space which is neither geographical nor physical, as site for radical resistance. In doing so, EWA forwards an understanding of power as space-clearing. This effort translates into a theologizing that is mindful of differences in, and among, women in the world.
Jeane Peracullo is co-editor of the anthology Feminista: Gender, Race and Class in the Philippines (Anvil Pub., 2012), and assistant professor at the De la Salle University, Manila where she also obtained her PhD in Philosophy. She holds as well an MA in Theological Studies from the Maryhill School of Theology.