Gender Studies and Religious Subjects Conference (2007)

What happens when the study of women, gender, sexuality and feminism encounter—or clash with—religion and the academic study of religion? Scholars bring a variety of disciplinary concerns to the challenges of bridging discussions of gender and feminist theory with discussions of religion. Harvard faculty in the humanities and social sciences joined faculty of Harvard Divinity School and past and present scholars in the Women's Studies in Religion Program (WSRP) at the Divinity School for a one-day conversation to address these questions.

Participants contemplated together the current issues facing women's and gender studies at Harvard, as well as in the academy at large, and considered multiple ways that religion figures in our various fields, the potential contribution of the study of religion for sexuality, gender, queer, or feminist theory, and the special problems academics face in writing or teaching about religion. Participants were interested in a range of theoretical reflections as well as a broad array of historical issues and practical questions, and hoped that the focus on religion broadly conceived would serve to catalyze a discussion leading to greater awareness across fields of common issues and interests among colleagues working in women's and gender studies.

Panel I: Identity and Difference

Session chair: Ann Braude, Harvard Divinity School


  • Janet Gyatso, Harvard Divinity School
    Gender Identity and Sexual Differences in Buddhist Monasticism

  • Carol B. Duncan, Wilfrid Laurier University
    Expressive Cultures of Religious Women in the African Diaspora

  • Stephanie Sandler, Harvard University
    Modeling Religious Expression in Poetry: Olga Sedakova and Elena Shvarts

View video

Panel II: Theory and Politics

Session chair: Karen King, Harvard Divinity School


  • Amy Hollywood, Harvard Divinity School
    The Metaphysical Turn in Contemporary Feminist Theory

  • Theda Skocpol, Harvard University
    Women in African-American Fraternalism

  • Afsaneh Najmabadi, Harvard University
    Secularist Narratives and Feminist Historiography

View video

Panel III: Agency and Social Context

Session chair: Leila Ahmed, Harvard Divinity School


  • R. Marie Griffith, Princeton University
    Gender Theory and American Religious History

  • Lara Deeb, University of California, Irvine
    Unpacking "Piety Politics" in the Suburbs of Beirut

View video