Women and Religion in Diasporic Canada: Histories, Beliefs, and Practices

Project Summary:

Co-edited with Dr. Sailaja Krishnamurti, the essays collected in this volume explore the complex ways that women in diasporic communities have shaped, challenged and transformed diasporic religious practice in Canada’s complex cultural landscape. Contributors reflect on the experiences of women in Canada with diasporic connections to the Americas, Africa, and West, South and East Asia. Women in these communities have navigated the politics of gender, race, and identity in Canada while negotiating relationships to homelands, ethnic communities, and religious groups and institutions.

Project Description:

The essays collected here cohere around three main contentions. First, they demonstrate that a deeper understanding of diasporic experiences of displacement, colonialism, migration, and racism is critical for the study of women’s religiosities in Canada. Second, these essays show how women engage with discourses of citizenship and multiculturalism as they shape identities for themselves within Canadian diaspora communities. Third, the essays in this collection reveal how women in Canada are conceptualizing tradition, convention, and authority in diverse ways, challenging some prevailing assumptions about diasporic religion.

The essays in Women and Religion in Diasporic Canada engage with diverse research methods to respond to these questions, drawing on interdisciplinary strategies in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Several chapters use qualitative data drawn from interviews and ethnographic observations. Others examine historical documents and memoirs. Some of the contributions turn to representations of diasporic women in literature, film and television to frame an analysis of religiosity and cultural expression. Above all, contributors offer different analytical perspectives across the various religious and ethnic groups examined here.

Our volume is about self-identified women in ‘diasporic Canada’. We understand women to include cis- and trans- people who self-identify as women. By ‘diasporic Canada’, we refer to ethno-religious communities in Canada that retain some cultural connection to a homeland and/or to other global locations of migration. By focusing on Canada as a location for diasporic communities, rather than tracing multiple nodes of a particular diaspora formation, we are better able to identify how diaspora experiences are shaped in part by discourses of Canadian-ness, and attend to specific histories of migration.

The volume employs diverse theoretical approaches to ‘diaspora’ and uses them to advance the understanding of diasporic women’s religiosities by bringing into focus some of the ways that experiences of migration, religion, and community affect diasporic women’s lives in Canada. To frame the approach of the volume as a coherent whole, we turn to the writings of diaspora theorists Khachig Tölölyan and Lily Cho. Tölölyan writes that diaspora is both “objective and subjective;” he understands the term to refer to “those communities of the dispersed who develop varieties of association that endure at least into their third generation” (2011:8). For Lily Cho, diaspora is “first and foremost a subjective condition marked by the contingencies of long histories of displacements and genealogies of dispossession” (2007:14). She writes that diasporas “are not simply collections of people, communities of scattered individuals bound by some shared history, race or religion, or however we want to break down the definitions and classifications. Rather, they have a relation to power. They emerge in relation to power” (2007:15). Building on this understanding of diaspora as both deeply subjective and historically contingent, the papers will consider how diasporic women’s experiences of gender and religiosity shape, and are shaped by, relations of power, authority, and faith within their communities and in the broader Canadian context.

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Dr. Sailaja Krishnamurti

Collaborator Institution:
Saint Mary's University, Halifax

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(e.g type 1000 for 1,000)