Faith, Class, and Labor
Intersectional Approaches in a Global Context
- ISBN: 9781725257160
- Published By: Wipf and Stock
- Published: December 2020
Faith, Class, and Labor: Intersectional Approaches in a Global Context, a collection of previously unpublished work edited by Jin Young Choi and Joerg Rieger, is the first in the new Intersectionality and Theology Series of Pickwick Publications (Wipf and Stock). As recognition of the importance of intersectionality in scholarship and action grows, this series will be helpful for inspiring and encouraging future work, and these essays are a great place to start. It can be a challenge to write coherently from an intersectional perspective, especially since typical analytical habits tend to prioritize pulling apart interconnected strands in the pursuit of gaining clarity and understanding. In this case, attending to labor offers a distinctive and effective way to employ the analytical lens of intersectionality. The essays brought together in this collection elucidate the complex web of interconnection and influence among people, power, texts, ideas, institutions, cultures, and identities in creative and thought-provoking ways.
This is a rich collection with much to offer. The intersectional approach and global scope of these essays are guaranteed to provide readers with the experience of learning something new and different. The emphasis on labor and class makes these essays refreshingly rooted in the rich soil of historical and social/cultural context. Despite the diversity of situational contexts with which these essays are engaged (South Africa, the Philippines, South Korea, Singapore, the US, China, Zimbabwe), the shared recognition that labor/class touch us all effectively provides a sense of coherence to the collection.
Through their encounters with these essays, readers can, at several points, expect to experience a kind of lifting of the veil that allows one to observe intersections and connections that were previously obscured. As suggested in Rieger’s opening essay to the collection, this experience may stem from an overall lack of sustained engagement between religion and matters of labor and class, particularly as experienced by working people. It should be noted that religion, in this case, refers to both religion as practiced by people in communities—often as part of established institutions—and religion as an area of study for scholars and theologians. It also refers primarily to Abrahamic, mostly Christian, religious institutions, histories, and approaches. The essays published in this collection emerged out of the collaborative efforts of a working group established by the Discernment and Radical Engagement initiative of the Council for World Mission. Thus, the essays reflect the culturally diverse, broadly Christian orientation of the authors.
The contributors to this collection orient their work toward a collective effort to transform material conditions and social and political relationships in ways that promote human dignity and justice. Because of this orientation, engaging with these essays would be particularly helpful for aspiring scholars and leaders/practitioners who seek to promote socially engaged scholarship and bridge the gap between scholarly research and activism.
Many of these essays demonstrate the power of religious engagement with class and the intersecting realities of gender, race, and sexuality to challenge dehumanizing structures and practices and to empower people to imagine alternative possibilities and to actively participate in their creation. Each of the contributors works toward this goal in a distinctive way. Among many other things, these essays demonstrate how reading biblical texts together in community can shed light on particular features of concrete community struggles and can generate transformative work to address those struggles; reveal how religiously informed alternative visions of power, labor, and human relations can influence labor movements; challenge presumptions embedded in traditional religious ethical approaches; and call for further engagement in efforts to dismantle dehumanizing systemic forces.
The essays range in degrees of accessibility. A broad familiarity with labor movements, marxism, markets, and neoliberalism would help to ground readers of these essays in an educational setting. Essays that require more specialized background knowledge or familiarity with theory and methodological approaches are in the second section of the book, which provides “trans-textual and/or trans-sectional readings of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures” by biblical scholars (xv).
As a pedagogical resource, this collection would work well in seminary or graduate-studies contexts in courses that focus on attending to global, intersectional perspectives, and for those interested in adopting a labor/class lens. If given enough guidance, some of the essays could be suitable for advanced undergraduates. Upper-level courses in theology, history of Christianity, biblical studies, or perhaps religion and society/politics could draw from several of the essays included in this collection, particularly if the instructor is looking to include a greater diversity of contemporary perspectives in their course.
Abbylynn Helgevold is assistant professor of religion and BOR Distinguished Professor of Ethics at Wartburg College.Abbylynn HelgevoldDate Of Review:January 20, 2022