The Feminist, Postcolonial, Asian Theology of Kwok Pui Lan

Unsurprisingly, exhaustion kicked in after my final Masters essay, so it’s taken me a while to put the link up on the reddresstheology writing page for any who might be interested.  Parts of this research were fascinating.  Can’t say I agreed with everything, can’t even say I understood everything!  But it was invaluable being so far outside of my own perspective.

Kwok Pui Lan is a Hong Kong born woman who lives and works as a scholar in the United States.  Click here and you’ll go through to her blog.   The Asian culture is so very different to my own – born and bred to parents with English ancestry in Melbourne, Australia.  I realised that my own critique of Enlightenment modernism had not gone far enough to deconstruct the power structures of colonialism and the reality of the Anglo-European captivity of most Christian theology.  How to let Asians and Africans read the scriptures on their own terms rather than through the lens of white superiority?  Big challenge!

Here’s the introduction and the first section offering a selected biography, which will tell you whether or not you want to follow the link in order to read the whole essay.

Kwok Pui-lan embodies the theology she writes. She is Asian, born of Chinese descent, raised in Hong Kong. She is woman, educated in the feminist scholarship of the West. She is global citizen, a member of the diaspora, multi-lingual, multi-cultural. She is Christian, a member of the imperialistic faith tradition aptly named Anglican. Kwok integrates all these blessings of life in a theology which is dynamic and open, constantly driven by questions and the inexhaustible resources for theological reflection living her multiple identities. Her vision of Christ is an epiphany of God, a unifying symbol of faith around which the story of real lives must constantly be told.

Kwok Pui-lan is a Hong Kong born scholar of international influence who currently serves as the William F. Cole Professor of Christian Theology and Spirituality at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has published extensively in feminist theology, postcolonial criticism and biblical hermeneutics, self-consciously speaking as an Asian woman through-out her career, though she has lived and worked primarily in the United States since commencing her doctoral studies at Harvard Divinity School in 1984. Her parents were Chinese immigrants to Hong Kong and practiced Chinese folk religion in the home. She became an Anglican Christian as a teenager, when she was privileged to have one of the first female ordained ministers in the Anglican communion.

Though her scholarly context has been the Western Academy, Kwok has maintained her Asian identity, involving herself with women theologians from marginal global contexts. In 2011 she served as President of the American Academy of Religion, which she saw as a significant step bringing recognition to minority groups in America. Kwok says, “I decided to run for the AAR presidency because I wanted to stand up for others…as leaders, we have to bring the tribe along. Those of us who are pioneers have the responsibility of opening the door a little wider for others to come.”1

The dynamic of Kwok’s life journey is shared by many women theologians in the current postcolonial global context, represented in the organisation now called PANAAWTM: Pacific, Asian, and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry. The original network was established in the same year that Kwok arrived in the United States, and is evidence of the emergent voice of Two-Thirds world theologians over the past three decades. In a co-authored paper for the twentieth anniversary of PANAAWTM, Kwok identified several ‘clusters’ of issues characteristic to the way women in this network do their theology. They critique the power structures of colonialism; seek an inclusive theological anthropology, examine the objectification of the body and sexuality; seek an interdisciplinary methodology that incorporates difference; and ground all this in daily spiritual practice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s