On November 6-9, 2011, the Ecclesia of Women in Asia held its 5th biennial conference on feminist ethical, theological and pastoral challenges in the use of computer-mediated information technologies in Asia. In collaboration with the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church, the session on November 8 virtually bridged via skype, five universities/college in the US (Santa Clara University, Loyola University Chicago, Boston College, Fordham University, and Barry University). For the conference program, visit this link
The abstracts of the papers presented via skype are as follows:
Digital Revolution – Creating a Flat World for Asian Women!
Virginia Saldanha, (India)
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Joel 2: 27-29
The hope of dreams for justice, democracy and building community is strengthened with the possibilities offered by the Digital Revolution. In this paper I elaborate on the impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on women particularly in South Asia. On the one hand, many women are currently not able to use ICT fully because of illiteracy, the lack of access, as well as, gender constraints. On the other hand, women’s groups and individual (middle class) women both in the Church and the bigger society, have started utilizing ICT to transform their lives. Examples from my own experience of working with women victims of violence and clergy sexual abuse, show that women can creatively use communication gadgets to take action and change their situation. Online education has also empowered women while Catholic women’s groups have been sustained and nourished through online communication.
I will argue that women in Asia can/should maximize the power of ICT to flatten their world of patriarchal domination, in the family, in religion, politics, anywhere they need a level playing field to work and develop their potential and fulfill themselves. The ‘soft’ power of the internet, conducive to the feminist vision of a just world can take on the hard power used by patriarchy. The freedom and democracy offered by modern communication is a sign of hope for the advent of the reign of God.
Virginia Saldanha was Executive Secretary of the FABC Office of Laity, Women’s Desk (1996-2009), co-ordinator/founder member of Indian Women’s Theologians Forum and a member of Satyashodak. She is author of Woman Image of God (2005) and editor of two volumes of Discipleship of Asian Women at the Service of Life (2007, 2011) which are compilations of papers presented at meetings on Women for Bishops during her tenure with the FABC.
Women in Cyberspace: A New Key to Emancipatory Politics of Location
Kochurani Abraham, India
Location is a defining factor in people’s lives. This is all the more conspicuous in the case of women whose lives are conditioned by the social, economic, religious and cultural boundaries that mark their identity. Their location shapes their worldview, the manner in which they perceive the world and conduct themselves in the world. Gender relations are constructed and negotiated spatially. Women’s power negotiations are dependent on their access to space or the constraints on their mobility. This being the case, cyberspace is taken as a key to examine the politics of women’s location.
This paper addresses the following questions: How does virtual space facilitate a liberative discourse? Does access to cyberspace provide women a ‘space of one’s own’ beyond the confines of a socio-culturally defined public space? As cyberspace represents a new frontier transcending the many constraints of physical space, does it make possible an ‘ex-tension’ of borders for women? From the Indian perspective, this is a crucial step in subaltern politics, in view of overcoming the hegemonic controls that persist in women’s lives.
The theological significance of Cyberspace is examined in this context in terms of its liminality, its scope for creating in women a collective consciousness and solidarity, and its potential to give women a new voice to address the oppressive paradigms that continue to define them. The crucial question in this context is: How does cyberspace become significant as a base to engage in the politics of the Reign of God?
Kochurani Abraham has a PhD in Christian Studies from the University of Madras, India, STL from the Comillas University, Madrid, and is faculty at the Dept. of Christian Studies, University of Madras, India. She is co-editor of Concerns of Women: An Indian Theological Response (2005).
Agnes M. Brazal, Philippines
“Why should our bodies end at the skin?” Donna Haraway
Since communication via computer mediated technologies is virtual, “words without flesh”, or characterized by anonymity and mobility, it can give the illusion that it has no impact on real bodies. Cyberviolence against women can be rationalized by this thinking that dichotomizes the virtual from the real, the user from the computer, the physical from the non-physical. There is a need to articulate a model of spirituality that will allow us to reimagine our relationship with technology.
One alternative can be based on the concept of the human as “cyborg”─ a “hybrid of machine and organism”. A cyborg is an organism which improves its capacities through technology. We become cyborgs when our hand touches the mouse, when we use the mobile phone, etc. In viewing the human as cyborg, the technology is no longer something one has/uses but becomes an extension of the self, a part of our embodiment.
This paper is an attempt to outline the elements of a model of spirituality built on the reality and metaphor of the cyborg and its feminist potential in breaking down rigid human/machine, man/woman, virtual/real, material/spiritual distinctions. A fundamental theological question is whether the cyborg can be indwelt by the Spirit and in that sense be God’s image. We start with the living East Asian traditions of animism (Philippine and Japanese) which hold that the world including human-made tools, is animated by spirits. Using these vernacular resources as lens, we re-read family-resembling S/spirit discourses in the Scriptures highlighting God’s indwelling the material world. Finally, we map the contours of a feminist cyborg spirituality of communication.
Agnes M. Brazal is President of the Catholic Theological Society of the Philippines, 2004 coordinator of the EWA and full-time professor at the Maryhill School of Theology. She is co-editor of the books Transformative Theological Ethics: East Asian Contexts (2010), Faith on the Move: Toward a Theology of Migration in Asia (2008), and Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Reflections of Women in Asia (2007). She obtained her SThD/PhD at the KULeuven, Belgium.