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Istratii, Romina (2023) 'Bridging religious tradition, gender norms and state institutions: toward a faith-sensitive approach to addressing intimate partner violence in Ethiopia.' American Behavioral Scientist. (Forthcoming)

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Despite its western Christian origin, the notion of religious fundamentalism has been employed by western and non-western scholars alike to describe a variety of religious groups perceived to manifest antagonism to aspects of modernity and secularism, especially western ideals of gender equality as enforced in many cases by state policies. Within religion and gender studies and Gender and Development scholarship, fundamentalism has been often invoked in reference to faith communities opposing feminist ideals, but without due recognition being given to the western metaphysics of feminist theories of gender, or the epistemological and ethical problems of ‘naming’ such communities as ‘fundamentalist’ within Western/Anglophone scholarship. This lack of reflexivity risks essentialising religious communities as being opposed to feminist gender ideals when their reactions might reflect more complex underlying reasons, and can also be counterproductive in effectively responding to gender inequalities and women’s abuse in religious societies. This paper proposes that a more intimate engagement with non-western religious traditions grounded in a study of theological teachings and the lived religious experience of specific communities can remedy such tendencies and achieve a better understanding of the nexus of gender, faith and tradition/modernity in diverse cultural contexts. It illustrates this by drawing key insights from a study of conjugal abuse in an Orthodox Täwahәdo community in Ethiopia that demonstrated intricate associations between understandings of and attitudes towards conjugal abuse and the local religious tradition, the significance of a culture-as-religion discourse in the maintenance of rigid gender norms, and the potential of Orthodox theology to counter ideas about abusiveness that contributed to its implicit tolerance. The paper relates these findings to Ethiopian women activists’ efforts and the multi-religious societal fabric of Ethiopian society to explore the possibilities for integrated responses to intimate partner violence in the country.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of History, Religions & Philosophies
ISSN: 00027642
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2023 15:52

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