Critical Religion Research Group

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Dr Alison Jasper

Senior Lecturer in Religion and Feminist Studies

Alison Jasper

MY INVOLVEMENT WITH CRRG:

I identify with the research theme of ‘critical religion’ because I think it’s important to recognise that the binary distinction between the religious and the secular has a complex history; we can’t just assume we know what these terms mean especially since they seem so heavily dependent on each other. Applying  ‘religious’ to things, practices or people in the west today, results, typically, in their being cast as private (thus not serious matters in the public world) irrational (thus not to be taken seriously) or dangerous (thus to be destroyed or violently controlled). Applying ‘secular’ to other things – government, economics, the ‘political’ –  results in them becoming ‘more serious, trustworthy or  rational in comparison. One key task of research in CRRG is to keep posing the questions:  are such distinctions really valid?  What are we doing when we use these terms?

‘Critical religion’ also resonates strongly with feminisms and gender analyses of the hegemonic, patriarchal, colonial subject/other,  because ‘woman’ – like ‘religion’ – and ‘the feminine’ is still so often indexed as irrational, in need of supervision and properly confined to a private rather than a public sphere. In this light it is interesting to note, the kind of critical yet not unsympatheic interest shown in the idea of ‘religion’ by feminist philosophers like Pamela Sue Anderson and Julia Kristeva. Nevertheless, a key aim of my research bridging both CR and  concerns with feminisms and gender analysis more generally is to keep these culturally rooted but philosophically contestable binary patterns under constant duress; whose interests is the current status quo serving in these contexts?

Educational spaces identified with ‘religion’ create a dilemma for today’s policy makers.  We can’t go back to Christian confessionalism but we seem to have fallen out of love with the notions of difference; multiculturalism, global diversity and ‘world religions’ are now viewed with suspicion in British policy making contexts in which funding for training teachers of RE (Religious Education) in England has been cut and UK university departments of TRS  (Theology and Religious Studies) are shrinking and disappearing. Does this reflect a properly critical approach to the religion/secular binary or simply its fuller reinforcement?

RECENTLY PUBLISHED IN RELATION TO THESE RESEARCH THEMES:

Anderson, P. S. & A. E. Jasper, “Engaging the ‘Forbidden Texts’ of Philosophy:  Pamela Sue Anderson Talks to Alison Jasper.” In  Text Matters:  A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture 1.1: 2011. 312-328.

I’Anson, J. & A.E.  Jasper, “‘Religion’ in educational spaces:  Knowing, knowing well, and knowing differently.” Arts and Humanities in Higher Education:  An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice. 10.3: July 2011.  295-314.

Jasper, Alison E., Because of Beauvoir: Christianity and the Cultivation of Female Genius. Texas:  Baylor University Press, 2012

Jasper, Alison E., “Feminism, religion and this incredible need to believe:  Working with Julia Kristeva again.” In Feminist Theology, May 2013.

OTHER RESEARCH RELATED PROJECTS:

SCHOOLING INDIFFERENCE under contract with Equinox publishers, London. A jointly authored book with John I’Anson (School of Education, University of Stirling) concerned with the positivity of difference – in the context of Religious Educational spaces – in a context now substantially ‘out of love’ with ideas of multiculturalism and set along the pathway to sameness or ‘indifference’.

ENGAGING STAKEHOLDERS:  A research project with Dr John I’Anson (School of Education, University of Stirling) that has involved interviewing (14)  stakeholders in Scottish Religious Educational Spaces to find out how people feel about Religious Education spaces on the ground. (APPLICATIONS TO CARNEGIE FUND &  to continue this work in UK and Europe). Involves further interviews and analysis with a chance for feedback from contributors.

WOMEN, RELIGION AND GLOBAL POLITICS SYMPOSIUM:  Winchester 7-9th June 2013, Under the leadership of Professor Lisa Isherwood (Winchester University UK) and Dr Kathleen McPhillips (Newcastle, Australia).

TEACHING:

At UNDERGRADUATE LEVEL I regularly teach core courses (modules) on Religion and representation and on various theories of Religion including references to the themes of CRRG, setting this in a broader historical context.  At honours level I teach courses on Christianity, the Bible and Religion and feminism and gender, developing a spread of approaches to the history of western, Christian thinking about gender and, more recently, exploring differences in relation to what shapes gender issues in a more recent Chinese context.

A TAUGHT MASTERS PROGRAMME in gender and feminist studies is currently being developed to come on stream in 2014.  I will be teaching a core course on key feminist thinkers  and also exploring critical, feminist philosophical issues relating to ‘religion’.

I CURRENTLY SUPERVISE THE FOLLOWING PHD STUDENTS:

  • Rasa Luzyte (Goddess traditions) – Using tools derived from analytical psychology, feminist anthropology and Goddess thealogy and working with Russian and Lithuanian sources, Rasa is developing the model of a non-Christian Mary who bridges the gap between European goddess traditions and the post-Christian revival of thealogy and the Goddess.
  • Kat Neumann (Dorothee Sölle) – Working with her own translations of German theologian Sölle’s poetry to develop a theory of ‘deprivatised’ prayer, Kat insists on both poetry and prayer as vital keys to unlocking her extraordinary prophetic ambitions.
  • Miryam Clough (Shame) – Covering a wide range of perspectives on the issue of ‘shame’ from feminist theory and terror management theory to neuro-biology,  Miryam focuses on its role  in attempts to control and contain female subjectivity and the unruly female body in western Christian cultures.

March 2013.

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