Reports on the Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA) Video Conference (Nov 2013)

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Contents:
I: Report from the EWA Planning Committee
II: Report prepared by the Asian Regional Chair, Lucas Chan 


Development Report for the CTEWC Newsletter (issue of December 1, 2013)

Women’s Theological Voices: a Conversation across Four Continents

 A Global Interaction

On November 15, 2013, CTEWC hosted a videoconference session of the sixth biennial conference of the association of Catholic women theologians Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA) held in Bangalore, India. EWA promotes contextual feminist theologies from the perspective of those who are excluded and in dialogue with other disciplines and religions. The theme of the EWA conference was “Liberating Power: Asian Feminist Theological Perspectives.”

Seven institutions from three other continents joined the videoconference: from Africa, Saint Augustine College in Johannesburg; from Europe, the University of Glasgow in Scotland and the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College in Dublin; from North America, the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Santa Clara University in California, Fordham University in New York, and Boston College in Boston.

Photo (L to R):  Agnes Brazal (Philippines), Jeane Caña Peracullo (Philippines), Gina Wolfe (USA), Sharon A. Bong (Malaysia),
Kristine Meneses (Philippines) 

Content

Three stimulating short papers were presented during the first part of the videoconference. The three speakers describe them:

In “The Power of Transformation and Transforming Power,” Sharon Bong (Malaysia) reflected on the narrative of Jin, a Chinese, Buddhist-New Age Spiritualist Malaysian female-to-male (FTM) transgender person, who embodies the power to transform. Bong argues that he also potentially transforms power in de-colonizing or queering theology that is founded on hegemonic discourses in recognizing only the sacredness of heteronormative bodies and sexualities. In doing so, Jin, as a non-heteronormative person, endows us with transformative power to liberate theology, recognize the other, our trans-selves and reclaim that other as “holy.”

Kristine Meneses (Philippines) examined “Deafness and Deafhood in Mark 7:31-37: ‘Seeing/Signing World’ of Filipino d/Deaf and their Narratives of Dismemberment and Empowerment in this ‘Hearing/Speaking World.’” [‘Seeing/Signing World’ was coined by Meneses to emphasize the d/Deaf world expressed in seeing and signing, but overpowered because the hearing/speaking world alienates them.] In her paper, she raises awareness of how we unconsciously configure disenfranchising labels toward Deaf people, such as Deafness, which looks into their “deficit,” and challenges our view of the d/Deaf, deafness, Deafhood, and Deaf Culture, in order to move toward an authentic solidarity with Deaf people, especially women.

The last paper in the session, “Doing Indecent Theology: Ecclesia of Women in Asia on Power and Resistance” was presented by Jeane Caña Peracullo (Philippines). In it she privileges the theologizing and praxis of EWA, which in “seizing” theology derived from Asian women’s experiences, subverts theology (thus, indecent) in both loud (forcefully through conferences and publications) and quiet (style, words, methods adhere to dominant discourse) ways. For Peracullo, subversion is manifested in claiming the right to be taken seriously when it comes to theologizing; in re-claiming the erotic in Asian female bodies; and by proposing a different trajectory that takes into account Eros’ playful, transformative dimension which is missing in many works purportedly for women and even those by women.

The diversity of the topics and their specific theological approaches were appreciated. At the same time, differences were noted, particularly when comparing the same issues in the very different African, European, and American contexts. Commenting on the event, Meneses said, “The videoconferencing was a new experience, however, more time could have been allotted for interaction, both to those virtually present, and with the live audience which could have been enriching.” Peracullo added, “The videoconference was a very significant event for me because it showed how fellow theologians and students of theology in universities in North America, Europe and South Africa bestowed Asian feminist theologians with importance. It also showed how global theologizing has become exciting because through the Internet, we can become exposed to myriad voices of world theologians.”

 

Method

A similar initiative took place as a pilot project during the previous EWA conference in 2011 with five American universities participating: Barry, Fordham, Loyola Chicago, S
anta Clara, and Boston College. It was a simple but successful event. We were encouraged to repeat it, to expand the number of participating institutions connected via web, and to make the session more interactive. Some of the previous participants joined again, and they were quite pleased with this second opportunity.

The Internet platform used this time allowed for a larger number of participating sites and for a better overall quality of sound and image. In each location, the presenters’ short papers were distributed; they were quite helpful, particularly when we were still fixing the sound issues at the beginning of the videoconference session. After the paper presentations, questions from all six international locations were gathered via chat and the three speakers in Bangalore answered the majority of them. The undergraduate students who had formulated some of the questions were excited to have their questions chosen and answered by speakers on the other side of the world in front of a global audience.

In all six international venues, the attendance was moderate, with a top of about twenty-five persons at Boston College. The attendees included undergraduate and graduate students as well as staff and faculty members all of whom have a strong interest in listening to Asian women theologians and interacting with them. Finally, everyone enjoyed the brief camera pan of the global site audiences for a visual “goodbye wave” before signing off.

Conclusion

All participants – the speakers and their international audience – found the videoconference a wonderful, incarnational experience of the “world church,” solidarity, and “theology in a global context” aided by digital media. Practical suggestions were also made to promote further interactions and conversations between the speakers, the whole group of women participating at the EWA conference, and those who attended the event in the various sites. Definitely, we long for insightful conversations with Catholic women theologians across the globe. We look forward to other events that will further strengthen and expand our Catholicity.

Andrea Vicini, SJ

Gina Wolfe

Agnes Brazal


Report on Interactive videoconference in Bangalore: ‘Women liberating power’

At the close of the first day of the Sixth Biennial Conference of the Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA), three participants whose papers were selected for the Skype presentation, waited anxiously for the highlighted event to begin. The unusual scheduling served to accommodate eight audiences, seven of which were remote, across four continents (e.g. Africa, Asia, UK and US) and respective time zones.  

Sharon A Bong’s paper on, ‘The power of transformation and transforming power’, foregrounds the narrative of Jin, a Chinese, Buddhist-New Age Spiritualist Malaysian female-to-male (FTM) transgender person. He embodies the power to transform in becoming a man. He also potentially transforms power in de-colonizing or queering theology that is founded on hegemonic discourses in recognizing only the sacredness of heteronormative bodies and sexualities. In doing so, Jin, as a non-heteronormative person, endows us with transformative power to liberate theology, recognise the other, our trans-selves and reclaim that other as ‘holy’.

Kristine Meneses’ paper on ‘Deafness and Deafhood in Mark 7.31-37: “Seeing/Signing World” [1]  of Filipino d/Deaf and their Narratives of Dismemberment and Empowerment in this “Hearing/Speaking World”’, aims to create awareness on how we unconsciously configure disenfranchising labels toward Deaf people. Deafness looks into their ‘deficit’, we rather turn to anew, and see that they are uniquely gifted and different – Deafhood. In our traditional interpretation of Mark 7.31-37, curing of the deaf has likewise contributed to seeing Deaf people as with defect. A post-colonial and post-structural re-reading of this narrative has shown that healing happened to the Deaf (not physical), to the crowd and to Jesus.

Jeane Cana Peracullo’s ‘Doing Indecent Theology:  Ecclesia of Women in Asia on Power and Resistance’ privileges the theologising and praxis of EWA, who in ‘seizing’ theology derived from Asian women’s experiences, subverts theology (thus, indecent) in both loud (forcefully through conferences and publications) and quiet ways (style, words, methods adhere to dominant discourse). Subversion is manifested in claiming the right to be taken seriously when it comes to theologizing; re-claiming the erotic in Asian female bodies; and by proposing a different trajectory that takes into account Eros’ playful, transformative dimension which is missing in many works purportedly for women even by women.

On the experience of this event, Meneses says that, ‘The videoconferencing was a new experience, however, more time could have allotted for interaction, both to those virtually present, and with the live audience which could have been enriching’. And Peracullo adds that, ‘The video-conference was a very significant event for me because it showed how fellow theologians and students of theology in universities in North America, [Europe] and South Africa bestowed Asian feminist theologians with importance. It also showed how global theologizing has become exciting because through the internet, we can become exposed to myriad voices of world theologians’.



[1] Coined by Meneses  to emphasize the d/Deaf world expressed in seeing and signing, but overpowered because the hearing/speaking world consequently alienates them.  

Comments

  1. Rosaline Costa's avatar
    Rosaline Costa
    | Permalink
    I wish I could be there this time also. But as I had another program, I missed this very important conference very badly. Women should be liberated from the male clutches of power in the Church in order to promote the work of the Holy Spirit visible. It is Mother Mary, a woman, who brought Salvation and Liberated humanity in this world and she is the Mother of God. Keeping women in a corner or closed in the house, no plan of Salvation can be fulfilled among the people in this world. It is time for the Church to recognise that the women are not less in a anyway than men in the plan of Salvation.
    I am proud to be a woman because it is the woman who creates and recreates, it is the woman who is the door to Salvation. Rosie

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