Intersectional Theology

An Introductory Guide

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Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Susan M. Shaw
  • Minneapolis, MN : 
    Fortress Press
    , November
     2018.
     170 pages.
     $29.00.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781506446097.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

“Intersectional theology recognizes that each of us exists in differing relationships to power and hierarchy based on gender, race, class, nation, sexual identity, ability, age, and other forms of social difference” (41). In Intersectional Theology: An Introductory Guide, authors Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Susan M. Shaw offer a concise and instructive guide on how to pay attention to social location and context in theological reflection that seeks to foster greater social justice. The authors apply Kimberlé Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionalityas analytical matrix to do “theology by questioning assumptions that are rooted in the dominant culture, purposefully pursuing justice, embracing the complexities and contradictions, and refusing to do theology as usual” (16).

Collaboratively written, this book performs what it sets out to teach, impressively weaving together multiple voices and perspectives, and presenting rich and diverse sources accessibly. 

Beginning with an introduction to intersectionality, Kim and Shaw explore social location through their own autobiography, highlighting the importance and difference it makes to develop a critical (self)understanding of one’s own intersectional identity in the process of theologizing. Several concepts are explored and interpreted constructively to demonstrate intersectional theological thinking at work—for example, the multiplicity of God, baptism, suffering, biblical interpretation, as well as a chapter on ecclesiology. The authors walk the readers through the different steps and stages of intersectional theological reflection, illustrating with examples and interjecting voices from diverse locations. Some of the deliberation moments elaborated on are, for example, the importance of understanding specific contexts and their histories; how to expand towards both/and thinking; employing power analysis to ideas and their implications; moving from center to margins when emphasizing critical reflection; and maintaining a self-critical stance of one’s own positionality within structure of domination. One strength of this work is the multitude of voices featured, from black liberation theology, womanist and ecowomanist perspectives, queer proposals, Asian conceptualizations, and more. 

In Intersectional Theology, readers will find guidance on how to enter an indeterminate process aimed at destabilizing universal truth claims, and holding multiple and competing perspectives to further justice in the praxis of communities. Acknowledging differences, and even tensions, between theologies does not have to be an obstacle, it can be an invitation. Kim and Shaw weave diverse voices together, not in unison, but in rich dialogue that shows how to appreciatively learn across differences, and tap into theological potential in moments where perspectives diverge. Intersectional Theology supports the reader in moving away from theologies that seek to be all-encompassing, and towards practicing continuous theological conversations that seek to hold convictions lightly, while insisting on growing the circle of engaged voices. 

This book is a very welcome addition to introductory theology guides. Though short, it is expansive in its incorporation of multiple voices and dynamic in its modelling of a mode of doing theology that is applicable to communal needs and practices. Intersectional Theology lends itself well for communal reading, and conversation in classrooms and communal settings where there is a desire to create liberative spaces and attend to the urgent demand to address the multiple oppressions impacting our lives. A glossary for some terms of analysis is provided, though perhaps it could be expanded when used for study with groups less familiar with theological jargon. The discussion questions after each chapter allow for deepening the personal reflection and facilitating conversations that maintain social justice commitments at the center of theological reflection.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Heike Peckruhn is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Daemen College.

Date of Review: 
June 21, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim is a Korean American theologian. Her many books include Mother Daughter Speak (2017), Embracing the Other (2015), and Colonialism, Han, and the Transformative Spirit (2013). Kim is Associate Professor of Theology at Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church.

Susan M. Shaw is Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University. She is author of Reflective Faith: A Theological Toolbox for Women (2014) and God Speaks to Us, Too: Southern Baptist Women on Church, Home, and Society (2008) and general editor of the four-volume Women's Lives Around the World: A Global Encyclopedia (2018).

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