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Womanist Theology: Divinity School Courses

A guide to resources for womanism and Black feminism in theology

Courses

DIV 5432. Women and Religion. This course will explore the ways that femaleness and woman-gendered identities configure religious consciousness and performance across cultures and chronologies. Through an examination of women’s sacred productions and roles in Native American, West African, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Vodou, and other religious traditions, we will interrogate how religion shapes gender identity, and conversely, how woman-gendered identity informs religiosity. Finally, the course will analyze woman-centered movements, such as feminism and womanism, in light of religious women’s experiences and seek new ways to categorize these experiences.

DIV 6609. Feminist Interpretations of Scripture.  Examination of the representations of women, religious and ethnic “others,” and sexuality in Biblical and contemporary non-canonical (ANE, Pseudepigrapha, Gnosticism) texts, utilizing various approaches (literary, historical, anthropological, ideological, Womanist, Mujerista). 

DIV 6845. Feminist and Womanist Theology.  “Feminist” theology broadly conceived seeks to reflect critically and constructively on Christianity from the perspective of women from a variety of backgrounds and with a variety of concerns. This course will examine both “classical” (1970-1989) and contemporary (1990-present) texts by (white) feminist, womanist, mujerista, disability and queer theologians. 

DIV 7027. Womanist Thought in Religion and Psychology.  In 1979 Alice Walker first coined the term “womanist” in a short story, “Coming Apart”. Walker’s main character thinks to herself that she has “never considered herself a feminist—though she is, of course, a ‘womanist.’ A ‘womanist’ is a feminist, only more common.” It was not, however, until her 1981 collection of prose “In Search of our Mother’s Gardens: Womanist Prose” that the term womanist began to fuel the aims, methodologies, aesthetics, and sources for research concerned with the study, and transformation, of black women’s lives. Womanist scholars situate black women’s experience as the epistemological starting place for reflection, theory building and praxis; therefore, a primary presupposition of this course is that black women’s particularity, and the challenges their experiences pose for existing perspectives, is integral to womanist approaches to psychology and religion and is the privileged source of knowledge building in this class. This seminar course will introduce students to, and deepen their engagement with, womanists’ thought, and the methods, aims, approaches, and sources of womanist scholarship in religion and psychology. 

DIV 7029. Evil, Aggression, and Cultural Trauma at the Intersection of Religion, Psychology, and Culture. This advanced course is concerned with the lived experience and life-shaping reality of evil, aggression, and cultural trauma. The course will concern itself with the “habitus” of evil and aggression and the trauma of culture as well as traumas acted against, upon, and throughout the cultural landscapes in which we are embedded. Part I of the course will turn first to individual narratives or lived experiences of evil, aggression, and trauma. Part II of the course will turn into an interdisciplinary discussion of cultural and social cases of evil, aggression and cultural trauma, and the trauma of culture utilizing various sites of “excavation” such as news, music, cyberspace, and literature. Part III will examine the place of religion and religious practices as a source and context for evil, aggression, and trauma as a site for resistance, protest, and practices of transformation. Part IV will engage psychological and critical theories of trauma, moral injury, and aggression and theory as traumatic. Part V will take up theologies (Latina, womanist, feminist, liberation, and practical pastoral perspectives) as attempts to face the reality and impact of evil, aggression, and cultural trauma while sometimes inflicting the very reality they seek to counter, and as models of reflection in practice as a response.

DIV 7065. Theoretical Applications for Practical Theology and Ministry. Through the application of various “APPS” or theoretical lenses (e.g., feminist and womanist theology, popular culture and theology, Black theology, the Internet and its influence on experience, and the artistic rendering of life, to name a few) students will engage the following aspects of methods in pastoral or practical theology: “(1) the explicit or implicit role of theology; (2) the relationship to various fields and disciplines outside of religion or theology, especially the social and behavioral sciences; (3) the awareness of the import of communities and context; (4) the integration of theory and praxis; and (5) the role of the experience of individuals and communities in the construction of theological and faith claims” (Marshal 2004, 137). As an outcome of their studies, students will approach their work with a mindfulness that emerges from considering some of the threads that may be woven into one’s practical theology and ministry. 

DIV 7103. Ethics in Crisis: The US and Its Seven Deadly Sins. This course is an intensive examination of what has been most famously referenced as the “seven deadly sins:” pride, envy, gluttony, sloth, wrath, lust, and greed, and how these transgressive principles actually have shaped the moral character and sociopolitical condition of American society and culture. We will examine how the innermost workings of US society are informed and ultimately beholden to these “capital vices.” Furthermore, given Gandhi’s summative reassessment of these vices as the “world’s seven great blunders,” his framework will serve as an important schema for self-examination, social analysis, and moral formation for the central foci of the course. By utilizing liberative ethics, liberation theology, critical race theory, and feminist-womanist thought, this course will equip students with critical methodological skills and theological competencies associated with ethical theory and moral practices necessary for effective conflict analysis and crisis intervention in service of social transformation as well as justice making efforts. 

DIV 7128. Critical Race Theory and Social Ethics.  Drawing on literature from criminology, critical race theory, social ethics and feminist/womanist thought, this seminar will reflect on the religious, legal, and intellectual context out of which white supremacy, hypermasculinity, and economic exploitation pervade our understanding of normativity. Students will map and critically examine the multiple trajectories along which the moral authority of the state is engendered by the convergence of racism, sexism and classism under the guise of normality, social order, common good and the will of God. Further we will explore how to develop social interventions that disrupt these normative patterns of discrimination and facilitate the elimination of racially-based, gender biased structures and practices in order to facilitate critical pedagogy, moral leadership, legal practice, and social movement organizing.

DIV 7131. Feminist Theological Ethics.  Drawing on resources from multiple traditions (Womanist, Mujerista, Asian, White), this course will focus on some of the major methodological, theoretical, and policy issues in feminist theological ethics. After tracing the historical development of the field of feminist theological/social ethics, we will analyze how feminists choose and use theo-ethical resources, the impact of varying theoretical frameworks on feminist analysis, several major policy foci of recent feminists, and the abiding question of whether or how to stay within a “patriarchal” religious tradition. The primary religious traditions studied will be Christian, but readings shall include a few articles from pagan, post Christian, and Islamic feminists. 

DIV 7132. Womanist Ethics and Theology. This course explores the womanist methods, sources, and conceptual frameworks for analyzing the ways in which Black women and their secular realities and sacred hopes reflect and mold race, gender and class hierarchies in society, and the ways religious, political and economic conditions influence these configurations. The course problematizes the phenomenon of being a Black woman in search of the “good life” while wrestling with the intersections of tripartite oppression. Through reviewing womanist theology and ethics, Black feminist theory and pop culture icons, we will reflect on the tension between lived reality and the eschatological hope for Black women’s human flourishing.  

DIV 7133. Womanist Literature as a Resource for Ethics. This seminar examines the Black women’s literary tradition as a repository for doing constructive ethics. Attention will be given to how Black women of various periods, cultures, and literary traditions have brought distinctive imaginative and critical perspectives to bear on “the sacred.” In addition to addressing the complicated presence of religious themes, biblical references, and theological issues in these texts, literary and religious methods of “reading” and “writing” will be employed by comparing constructive and hermeneutical approaches among both literary writers and womanist ethicists.