Book published

Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality

Ethnographic Approaches

Edited by Anna Fedele and Kim Knibbe

Gender and Power in Contemporary Spirituality

This book contains captivating descriptions of the entanglements of gender and power in spiritual practices and detailed analyses of the strategies spiritual practitioners use to attain what to social scientists might seem an impossible goal: creating spiritual communities without creating gendered hierarchies.

Contemporary spiritual practitioners tend to present their own spirituality as non-hierarchical and gender equal, in contrast to ‘established’ religions. Current studies of these movements often reproduce their selfdescription as empowering, while other literature reacts polemically against these movements, describing them as narcissist and irrelevant and/or in league with capitalism. This book moves between these two poles, recognizing that gender and power are always at work in any socio-cultural situation.

What strategies do people within these networks use to attain gender equality and gendered empowerment?

How do they try to protect and develop individual freedom? How do gender and power nevertheless play a role?

The contributions collected in this book demonstrate that in order to understand contemporary spirituality the analytical lenses of gender and power are essential. Furthermore, they show that it is not possible to make a clear distinction between established religions and contemporary spirituality:

the two sometimes overlap, at other times spirituality uses religion to play off against while reproducing some of the underlying interpretative frameworks. While recognizing the reflexivity of spiritual practitioners and the reciprocal relationship between spirituality and disciplines such as anthropology, the authors do not take the discourses of spiritual practitioners for granted. Their ethnographic descriptions of lived spirituality span a wide range of countries, from Portugal, Italy and the Netherlands to Mexico and Israel.

“An important and original contribution to the understanding of the dynamics of gender and power in alternative forms of spirituality.” – Sabina Magliocco, California StateUniversity, Northridge, USA

Central to spirituality is a desire for personal liberation, we hear again and again. Yet this rich collection of ethnographies demonstrates that it is deeply shaped by performances ofgender and power.” – Dick Houtman, Erasmus University, Netherlands

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