Group of courses: Humanities
Students should be familiarised with the methodological and theoretical principles of women’s studies, men’s studies and gender research in the field of religious studies. First of all, it is intended to put prevailing paradigms into question and to develop the competence for critical analysis of gender concepts in religious traditions (e.g. polarised gender roles and heteronormativity) and implicit gender constructions in research and theory building concerning religions. Another objective is the revision of current data of the history of religions relying on the broad empirical results of gender research that are available today. Selected comparative and systematic issues reveal interreligious coherences relating to gender-specific stereotypes, norms, ideologies and symbolisms, but also specifics of particular religious traditions. Students should be enabled to recognise the interactions between systems of religious symbols and gender relations, which stretch from the legitimisation of hierarchic dominance relationships to egalitarian tendencies or even the dissolution of the man/woman dichotomy. Eventually, students should be encouraged to independently integrate the category gender into their own analysis, depiction, interpretation and theory building as part of the study of religions – just like other differentiations, such as social class, age or ethnicity.
Questions and issues of women’s, men’s and gender studies should be included both in the history of religions and in the comparative systematic study of religions.
In the field of the history of religions, the initial focus is on:
Comparative systematic studies of religions examine questions and issues in a way closely linked with the history of religions. It is therefore likely to integrate the teaching content outlined above (i.e. gender images, roles and relations) into:
The fundamental methodological debate on objective and value-free research affects both the history of religions and the comparative systematic study of religions. The insight that pure objective research does not exist at all is constitutive for women’s studies, men’s studies, and gender research. Following different lines of research like Critical Theory, Constructivism, and Postcolonialism the deconstruction of the claim of objectivity belongs to the core of feminist theory building. The gender ideology of the bourgeois society of the 19th century is characterised by bipolar opposites. According to this scheme the line is drawn between science and religion, rationality and emotionality. From the viewpoint of science, the disembodied rationality is independent and objective and takes the position of an epistemic acontextuality. Religion and morality belong to the female inner zone contrasted by the analytic, scientific, male gaze in the outer zone. Contrary to other disciplines like Cultural Anthropology or History many representatives of the study of religions plead for a strictly objective, distanced and value-free science. Up to now there is only a slight awareness that the exalted claim of objectivity most often functions as a mask for particular interests, values and commitments.
Religion and gender are connected in many ways. Religious traditions, ideas, symbols and practices are not gender-neutral but gender-specific. Gender roles, images, stereotypes, ideals and the self-conception of women and men in a particular culture are in constant interaction with the religious and philosophical heritage of that culture. Moreover, traditional research and the description of religions are predominantly carried out from an androcentric perspective; the classical outlines of theory building in religious research are non-reflectively premised on specific gender models. Women’s studies, men’s studies, and gender research in the study of religions take account of the category gender in the collection, description, interpretation and representation of data and shed light on the relationships and interconnections between religion and gender.
In modern multi-religious societies, gender-related religious studies currently have strong practical significance in the media, intercultural education, and in the context of migrant integration.
Therefore, the following aspects arise with regard to professional implementation
The gender perspective should be integrated into all subjects and topic areas, as it cuts across them all. Whenever religion comes up, the gender-specific aspects of the questions, topics, concepts and theories should be debated.
Unless women’s studies, men’s studies, and gender research are integrated into the subject-specific content of the study of religions, we recommend offering a module on gender. This module might consist of the following elements:
For the most part, the content should be taught as part of the Bachelor's degree (module elements 1 and 2, and the introduction to module element 4). Module elements on systematic questions (module element 3) and the continuation of module element 4 could be integrated into the Master's courses.