Drawn from over fifty-eight individual, in-depth, qualitative interviews with women of faith in Malaysia and Britain, Women of Faith and the Quest for Spiritual Authenticity is a multifaith, multicultural and cross-cultural comparative focus that explores women’s religious expressions, as derived from practising Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans and Druids among others.
Despite social advances towards women’s emancipation and the lacerating critiques from feminist theologians across the Abrahamic religions and beyond, women’s religious experiences remain submerged beneath the weight of patriarchal religious leadership and ongoing masculinised, dogmatic interpretations. Even feminism itself has yet to move the spiritual onto their main agenda of inequity in women’s lives. This extensive, feminist research monograph challenges these exclusions to centre and amplify women’s voices in speaking powerfully of their religious experiences, interpretations and practices.
This is an ecumenical and entertaining ethnography where women’s narratives and life stories ground faith as embodied, personal, painful, vibrant, diverse, illuminating and shared. This book will of interest not only to academics and students of the sociology of religion, feminist and gender studies, politics, ethnicity and Southeast Asian studies, but is equally accessible to the general reader broadly interested in faith and feminism.
Table of Contents
1. Searching for the Sacramental: An Introduction
2. Gender and Faith: A Critical Review
3. ‘When Eve Delved’: Fieldwork Reflections
4. What is it to be a Woman of Faith?
5. God the Patriarch and Other Relatives
6. The Sacred, Sacramental and Sex
7. The Damnable, Salvational and Salvageable
8. Conclusions and Contemplations
Sara Ashencaen Crabtree is Professor of Social and Cultural Diversity at Bournemouth University, UK. She has worked extensively in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and the Middle East and is widely published in the areas of gender, vulnerability, discrimination, disadvantage, cross-cultural issues and belief.
"If being female is challenging, being a woman of faith often adds further complexity, irrespective of one’s beliefs. This is scholarship of the highest order as Sara Ashencaen Crabtree deftly weaves the stories of the 59 women she interviewed in Britain and Malaysia with previous research, key tenets of diverse belief systems as well has her own struggles with faith. The deep respect Ashencaen Crabtree demonstrates to her informants who reciprocate in turn share their stories, the authenticity of such is that each will arouse a response from the reader, and that may be anything from hope to horror. Any stereotypes the reader may have brought to this book are likely to shattered, including those about religious beliefs or practices, or even that scholarly writing must be unintelligible to all but other experts in a field. Those who do not identify as scholars should not be put off – this is a book for anyone who would enjoy some thoughtful consideration of what it means to be a woman of faith."
Beth R. Crisp, Professor and Discipline Leader for Social Work at Deakin University
"Professor Sara Ashencaen Crabtree has produced a brilliant piece of work that is both accessible and highly instructive for both students of the sociology of religion and lay readers. The book works brilliantly on two levels: on the one hand, it offers an astute feminist, sociological account of women’s expressions of faith, explored across a broad range of religions and two country contexts sharing similar challenges with religious plurality: Malaysia and the UK. On the other, it is a treasure trove of fascinating stories amassed by the author on a very personal intellectual and emotional "pilgrimage" through the world of religious identities and mythologies that remains as mysterious as it is compelling for modern society. The emphasis on women’s experience of faith is refreshing, helping to show that the latter can also be a springboard for personal expression and empowerment."
Dr Rana Jawad, Senior Lecturer, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath