Last week I attended the 2016 SECSOR (Southeastern Commission for the Study of Religion) Conference in Atlanta.
I presented in one of the “Women, Gender, and Religion” sections, along with four others discussing the intersections of gender and nationality.
One paper in particular that stuck with me was Pamela Ayo Yetunde’s “A New Spelling of Our Names: The Psycho-Spiritual Experiences of African-American Buddhist Lesbians”. (A link to some of her writing can be found here)
Yetunde’s approach was ethnographic (as were all of the panelists other than myself), and approached the religiosity of these women in a way that I did not expect. Her data included those who self-identified as Buddhist, but additionally looked at the ways in which the individuals described their beliefs, worldviews, and practices, labeling them as Buddhist if they fit into what could be described as Buddhist theology.
A greal of the paper seemed to be supporting the notion that a person can hold multiple religious identities, and that these do not necessarily need to be in conflict with one another. This is a notion that I think is very interesting, and one that would be worth considering in more detail as I continue my studies.
I don’t have a lot to add at this time. I was at first dismayed that all of the other panelists were addressing contemporary theological communities using anthropological and ethnographic methods, while my subject matter was rather ancient, and I took a theoretical approach. But through my brief conversation with Yetunde I saw how they could be connected. My paper dealt with the violent exclusion and othering of one group by another, and hers dealt with a way in which it seemed like certain individuals were able to bridge gaps between practices and traditions that at first seem irreconcilable.