I was honored to be invited to speak at Martin Luther University College in Canada on my co-written book Intersectional Theology. Thank you Dr. Mary Joy Philip for the kind invitation. She has a wonderful group of students. I hop you will order my book and I hope you will find it helpful.
I presented some key points from my co-written book with Susan Shaw, Intersectional Theology. In a complex world with so much injustices, I hope intersectionality can be a tool to help analyze this world and help us move towards social justice.
You can read it here.
I hope you can read and also review Intersectional Theology. Feel free to rate it on Amazon.
By Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan M. Shaw. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2018. ISBN: 978-1-
5064-4609-7. xix & 129 pages. Paper. $29.00.
In their new book, Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide, Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan M. Shaw collaborate to provide a much-needed resource for theologians and church leaders working to understand and incorporate intersectionality as a lens for their work. As popular as it is often misunderstood, intersectionality is a vital resource for theological work and reflection today. This short and accessible introductory text is a welcome companion.
Kim and Shaw provide a clear and understandable history of intersectionality, a term coined within recent decades, including its grounding in previous centuries of black women’s writing and experience. One of the key points while introducing the concept is that “its roots are firmly in a tradition of black feminist thought that [has] roots in black women’s activism” (4). This highlights the necessity of citing and drawing upon the wisdom of black women writers and activists whenever intersectionality is invoked. From Sojourner Truth to Audre Lorde to Patricia Hill Collins, Kim and Shaw make explicit the genealogy of a concept that many seem to equate with diversity. They make clear that intersectionality is not mere diversity. Intersectionality is a theory of structural and personal power, biased toward justice, and attending to shifting relationships with regard to multiple aspects of human identity.
After a detailed introduction to intersectionality, including clearly described core concepts and commitments, Kim and Shaw show how biography plays an essential role in this theory and method. Using their own stories as case studies, they demonstrate how and why intersectionality has resonance with theology. Insofar as faith and religious practice are personal experiences, with theology in continual conversation with these experiences, the use of biography becomes an essential tool. As they describe it, “intersectional theology makes room for the specific, the idiosyncratic, the overlooked and marginalized that may be speaking in God’s still, small voice” (19).
Attention to narrative and biography is one way to inhabit this space and understand “simultaneously experienced multiple social locations” (2). Kim and Shaw demonstrate how intersectionality functions as a method for doing theology by posing fourteen questions that emerge from its “kaleidoscopic” approach to understanding the multiplicity of identities, shifting power relations, and institutional structures (2). The questions help readers see the concrete difference intersectionality can make for doing theology. For example, the basic starting point is “how does my own social location affect how I look at issues?” (49). This is why understanding one’s own biography is an essential preparatory step for doing intersectional theology. Another question is: “how does this idea reproduce or challenge inequities?” (57). This highlights the way intersectionality always draws our attention to power, how it is organized hand distributed, and always moves toward more equity in relationships and organizations.
Ultimately, Kim and Shaw turn their attention to theology and the Bible to show precise examples of what differences intersectionality can make for faith and religious practice. The concept of God is one case where they name traditional views of the divine as perfect, static, and unchanging, while offering an alternative: “If, however, we apply the logics of intersectionality, we can think of God as multiple, divergent, and contradictory, encompassing the totality of diverse experience. In this way, God is both/and, more rich and complex and nuanced than Our either/or theologies that posit a fixed and singular identity for God” (67).
In connection with this, they discuss how intersectionality can be a helpful method for biblical interpretation: “Recognizing these histories of reading and employing Scripture to maintain power and dominance, we recognize the urgent need to read Scripture through the lens of intersectionality” (75-76). Attention to power by listening to diverse and complex voices, both in the text and in the readers of the text, is made explicit in this approach.
The book concludes with a brief discussion of intersectionality’s effect on individuals and on communities, including discussion of the sacraments, ordination, and worship practices. Here the book gains relevance for those engaged in church life. Each chapter concludes with discussion questions that not only help the individual reader but serve small group discussion. The book works very effectively in teaching undergraduates about intersectionality as a key method and theory. It can help readers to see the relevance and resonances with theology, including the study and practice of religion today.
Caryn D. Riswold, Wartburg College