Reading gender and religion in East Asia

Family formations and cultural transformations

Authored by: Fang-Long Shih

Routledge Handbook of Religions in Asia

Print publication date:  September  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415635035
eBook ISBN: 9781315758534
Adobe ISBN: 9781317636465


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This chapter explores how gender, family and religion are articulated in the contexts of Confucian Northeast Asia and Islamic Southeast Asia. The study of ‘Women and/in Religions’(Sharma 1987; Holm with Bowker 1994) has been dominated by a phenomenological approach to religious texts, which present Confucianism (Kelleher 1987; McFarlane 1994) and Islam (Smith 1987; Badawi 1994) as separate realms of beliefs and practice, but with the ‘common feature of being patriarchal’(Young 1987: 3). This phenomenological method, however, failed to capture the complexity of formulations and transformations of gender and/in religion. The current chapter takes a different approach. My framework is macro- and micro-social: a macro examination of religious ideology relating to the formations of the family institution and gender relationalities is complemented with a micro exploration of embodied religious practices as crucial sites for the political, economic and social negotiation and transformation of family structure and gender roles. It addresses intersections that define the axes for understanding the change or resilience of gender norms in complex and shifting contexts: of women and men, religion and culture, doctrines and practices, the past and the present, the rural and the urban, and the local and the global.

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