Religious, Feminist, Activist


Religious, Feminist, Activist

Cosmologies of Interconnection

Laurel Zwissler

Anthropology of Contemporary North America Series

336 pages
4 photographs, 4 illustrations, index


April 2018


$65.00 Add to Cart

April 2018


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eBook (PDF)
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April 2018


$30.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
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April 2018


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About the Book

In Religious, Feminist, Activist, Laurel Zwissler investigates the political and religious identities of women who understand their social-justice activism as religiously motivated. Placing these women in historical context as faith-based activists for social change, this book discusses what their activities reveal about the public significance of religion in the pluralistic context of North America and in our increasingly globalized world. Zwissler’s ethnographic interviews with feminist Catholics, Pagans, and United Church Protestants reveal radically different views of religious and political expression and illuminate how individual women and their communities negotiate issues of personal identity, spirituality, and political responsibility.

Political activists of faith recount adventurous tales of run-ins with police, agonizing moments of fear and powerlessness in the face of global inequality, touching moments of community support, and successful projects that improve the lives of others. Religious, Feminist, Activist combines religion, politics, and globalization—subjects frequently discussed in macro terms—with individual personalities and intimate stories to provide a fresh perspective on what it means to be religiously and politically engaged. Zwissler also provides an insightful investigation into how religion and politics intersect for women on the political left.

Author Bio

Laurel Zwissler is an assistant professor in the Philosophy and Religion Department at Central Michigan University.


"Zwissler's book gives a unique insight into the ways activists of faith create new communities and practices in imagining and bringing about a better world, based on a cosmology of interconnection that goes beyond individualism and recognizes every person's ethical responsibility for the well-being of others. It deserves to be widely read by scholars of religion, politics, and the complex interaction between the two."—Kim Knibbe, Political Theology

"Bringing together ideas that are often thought to be incongruent, Zwissler . . . discusses individuals who have deep commitments to religion but also to feminism and activism. . . . Offering a wealth of information, this accessible book is well suited to classroom use as well as secondary reading."—M. M. Veeneman, Choice

"Based on their worldview of interconnection, activists come together in communities that provide support, encourage patience and compassion, and connect people. With this ethnography of groups rarely studied with such depth, Zwissler provides an important contribution to scholarship on social movements and feminist and religious studies."—Sharon P. Doetsch-Kidder, Reading Religion

"Laurel Zwissler centers her analysis around case studies of three women in Canada from the Catholic, United Church, and Pagan traditions. Both micro perspectives and macro investigation provide readers with insights into important differences among the subjects but equally important commonalities of spirit, politics, and action."—Water Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual

"More often than not, the attention given to religious activism focuses on the influence of right-wing evangelical Christians in contemporary North American politics. Less often are we made aware of the ways in which other religious groups (Christian or non-Christian) have advocated for progressive policies that tend to fall on the left side of the political spectrum. The stories told by Laurel Zwissler in her book, Religious, Feminist, Activist: Cosmologies of Interconnection fills this void not only by providing a unique perspective on left-leaning religious activism in North America, but her work is imperative to understand the variety of ways in which religious women actively participate in the public and political spheres."—Stacy Keogh George, Religion and Gender

“A valuable window into the complex but important role of religion in many progressive feminist groups. Zwissler’s volume helps us to better reflect on the challenging dance of religion and feminism, within the all-important context of activist work. Focusing on cultural and religious resources, rituals, and discourses that shape and constrain movement activity, this is a beautifully written, thoughtfully argued, and timely contribution.”—Courtney Bender, professor in the Department of Religion at Columbia University

“The most effective way to understand activist religion is [through] finely tuned ethnographic work. Laurel Zwissler asks perceptive questions, listens to complex responses, and observes the multiple layers of women engaged in progressive public enactments in Toronto. The result is a convincing, compelling book.”—Ronald L. Grimes, director, Ritual Studies International and professor emeritus of religion and culture at Wilfrid Laurier University

“Laurel Zwissler’s comprehensive and up-to-date summary and synthesis of matters pertaining to religious, spiritual, and political uses of ritual, ceremony, and action are critical to every large scale protest movement of our time.”—Mary Keller, assistant academic professional lecturer for the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Wyoming

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Changing Rituals, Changing Worlds
2. “The Shrine Was Human Rights”: Pilgrimage and Protest
3. “Spirituality” as Feminist Third Choice: Gendering Religion and the Secular
4. Self, Community, and Social Justice
Source Acknowledgments

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