Intersections of religion and race in Women's and Gender Studies: Possibilities for teaching introductory courses
Clinard, Marcella C.
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This dissertation study aims to improve social-justice education by investigating an area of diversity that is often overlooked within the field of women’s and gender studies (WGS): religion. Using introductory WGS courses as a case study, I examine how instructors teach about religion as it intersects with other axes of social identity and power, especially race, ethnicity, and nationality. I conducted an exploratory qualitative case study of WGS general introductory undergraduate classes in the US in recent years, using the following data sources: six textbooks assigned in introductory courses, thirty-eight syllabi for introductory courses, a survey of thirty-five WGS faculty of introductory courses, and in-depth interviews with seven faculty WGS members who demonstrated an interest in teaching and researching about religion. Qualitative analysis and triangulation of sources revealed three main themes: 1) when WGS faculty are willing and committed to teaching about religion in spite of the risks, they often choose to do so by organically integrating religion into their teaching; 2) WGS faculty who are committed to teaching about religion in a relational way often focus on religion as a complex intersectional source of socialization for empowerment and/or oppression; and 3) WGS faculty could enact student-centered feminist pedagogy featuring open and respectful dialogue as they teach about religion and race whether or not it’s their specialty. In addition to discussing the theoretical implications of these findings, my dissertation includes a discussion of pedagogical implications of each theme, including sample materials for faculty self-reflection, class activities, and resources for further learning. Through my dissertation, I hope to empower social-justice educators with concrete possibilities for responding to bigotry and oppression that involves religion as a source of social power and inequality.