Research seminar with Dr Sîan Hawthorne: 'When Religion and Gender are White'

The Centre for Religion and Public Life at the University of Leeds is delighted to announce a research seminar with Dr Sîan Hawthorne.

In the CRPL research seminar of 10 February 2022, Dr Sîan Hawthorne (SOAS University of London) will be speaking about: “‘Treacherous with old magic’: When Religion and Gender are White”.

The seminar will take place online, via Microsoft Teams, and is open to members of the Centre for Religion and Public Life, other academic staff and research students at Leeds, and anyone with an interest in the topic. To receive the seminar link, please contact Professor Adriaan van Klinken.


In the last several decades, scholars working in the non-confessional field of the Study of Religions have exposed the ethnocentric genealogy of ‘religion’ and questioned its adequacy as a means of classification because of its instrumentalisation by colonial and racist power formations. In this paper, I want to explore the necessity of a similar challenge to the (white) feminist genealogy of ‘gender’ within the field of religion and gender. This field has been staged as a critical intervention against the exclusion of gender as an analytic category within the interdisciplinary study of religions. Emerging from the pioneering work of feminist scholarship in theology, it has tended to share and replicate feminist commitments to retrieving women’s voices and practices, examining men’s voices as specifically gendered and heterogeneous, and to work for the reform of the conceptual, political, and affective domains that reproduce various forms of gendered (and indeed sexual) exclusions. However, I want to question why 'gender' has been a prioritised normative centre in this field, and to argue that the genealogy of gender as an analytic and site of political enunciation reveals its limitations as a critical tool of analysis and a means of achieving justice, liberty, and equality because of its constitutive neglect and marginalisation of race. I will suggest that ‘gender’ in this genealogy is a product of white normativity which serves as a technology of anti-blackness, and I will ask whether the particular texture and framings of gender within this genealogy—liberal, secular, colonial, Eurocentric, and white—foreclose how we may (and may not) think of gender and its relationship to all that is named religion or religious.

Dr Sîan Melvill Hawthorne is a Senior lecturer in Philosophy, Politics and Religion at SOAS University London and Head of Religions and Philosophy. She convenes the MA Religion in Global Politics and the BA World Philosophies at SOAS University of London. She has published widely on matters of method and theory relating to the academic study of religions, religion and gender, postcoloniality, and religion and sexuality. Her research interests include religion and gender, postcolonial and race theory; religion and politics, disciplinary decolonisation and narrativity. She is currently working on a monograph with Bloomsbury Publishers titled Religion, Gender and Race: A Polemic.