WEEK FIVE—WEDNESDAY, 30TH MARCH

IDENTITY, DIFFERENCE AND BELONGING: NEGOTIATING CULTURAL AND RELIGOUS BOUNDARIES

All video lectures for this course will be available free of charge here, with a new lecture uploaded each Monday during Lent. Only those registered with Catherine of Siena College can access all the course materials, but the materials here are free. This week, we have added some additional materials, including the short essays referred to in the lecture, and links to video interviews with Anna Kasafi Perkins, Cristina Gangemi and Mishal Francis.

In this fifth session we move to the margins of identity, belonging and meaning. We consider women who live with contradiction in terms of their religious and cultural identities, either because of cultural and religious contrasts and conflicts, or because of deeply rooted struggles with regard to gender, mental health or intellectual disabilities.

In the first part of the session, we consider three women who have had to forge a sense of self at the confluence of different demands and claims upon them. Anna Kasafi Perkins describes her work as a theologian in Jamaica where Catholicism and Rastafarianism sometimes clash and require her to navigate between the two. Mishal Francis describes her experience of being a refugee and finding a dynamic new sense of faith and vocation when her Catholic family moved from Pakistan to Scotland to escape persecution and death threats from Islamist groups. Irim Sarwar gives a rueful and witty account of her conversion from Islam to Catholicism, and of grappling with the challenges of a tradition that turns out to be not so different in some ways from the one she left behind.

In the second part of the story, we reflect on Johanna Greeve’s gruelling story of disintegration and despair as she struggled to cope with the effects of autism, and her discovery of deep happiness in the midst of what for many would be almost unbearable restrictions and limitations. Cristina Gangemi discusses the plight of women with intellectual disabilities, in their struggle for acceptance and participation in the life of the Church. Finally Samantha Tillman tells of her gradual journey to acceptance of her transsexual self, in a story that calls into question many settled assumptions about identity and gender.

We consider issues such as:

  • The significance of “intersectionality” for gendered and religious identities
  • The limitations and challenges of language, culture and community to meet the needs of people who fall outside socially acceptable norms and conventions, including gender
  • The ways in which women find meaning in narratives of faith that reach beyond these alienating structures to offer the possibility of hope and insight

Please remember that the lectures include references to coursework and other aspects of the course which you can ignore, since these relate to students who sign up for the Certificate of Continuing Professional Development. We are offering the course as a resource for a wider audience.

You can download a PDF of the lecture with slides at this link.

This week’s short readings all come from Part Two of the Catholic Women Speak publication, Visions and Vocations, edited by Tina Beattie and Diana Culbertson, published by Paulist Press (2018). To find out more about this and our other publication, please go to these links: 

Visions and Vocations (2018)

Bringing Our Gifts to the Table (2015)

If you’d like to read this week’s essays, you can download a PDF of Visions and Vocations at this link and go to Part Two.

Interview with Anna Kasafi Perkins, recorded in Rome on 1st October 2018 during the Catholic Women Speak Symposium and book launch at the Pontifical University Antonianum.

Interview with Mishal Francis, recorded in Rome on 1st October 2018 during the Catholic Women Speak Symposium and book launch at the Pontifical University Antonianum.

Interview with Cristina Gangemi, recorded in Rome on 1st October 2018 during the Catholic Women Speak Symposium and book launch at the Pontifical University Antonianum.