Associate Professor, social/gender geography, Bucknell University.
Women, Religion and Space: Making the Connections
In this talk, Karen Morin ‘triangulates’ among the scholarly domains of geography, women’s studies, and religious studies, suggesting ways to draw out the geographical implications of the study of women and religion. The talk highlights the ways that religions regulate women spatially, and how religious women negotiate and define spaces and their sense of themselves in them. Co-sponsored by the anthropology and religion departments.
Issue in Context
In the 17th century, Medieval Roman Catholic nuns benefited from the mobility of being allowed to work outside of their convents and within their communities, and of participating in missionary activities. However, in 1662, laws were passed in accordance with the Counter-Reformation that restricted the nun’s movement and often imprisoned them to their cloisters. The construction of gates and high walls around convents, the grills used to separate the nuns from the laypeople, and the use of the turntable to receive goods were just some of the limitations imposed on their lives. Nuns no longer had the right to play an active part in the church or in the community.
Almost 350 years later spiritual women’s movements and choices are still being controlled by both religious and secular authorities all over the world. In 2004, the French government passed a bill that banned Muslim girls from wearing head scarves in public schools. Arguing that France had to preserve the principle of the separation of church and state, President Jaques Chirac contended that the veil could constitute violent acts or disturb general order. Many women defend wearing the veil as a religious obligation and as a conscious choice. The banning of the Islamic veil is seen by much of the world as discriminatory to Muslim women.
As shown in theses examples, as well as countless others throughout history, women have persistently been forced to define their spiritual identity through the framework of traditional religious institutions.
The three principal monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are historically patriarchal and based on the differences between men and women. The effects of this gender division restrict women’s experiences within their social and spiritual communities. Spatial separation is also an important part of the formation of women’s religious identities. In our contemporary world, religion and geography are essential factors that affect the way in which women define themselves.
About the Speaker
Karen M. Morin is an associate professor of human geography at Bucknell University and specializes in feminist historical geography. Her research focuses on the connections between British and American imperialisms, North American historical geography, and women’s travel writing. Professor Morin co-edited the volume Women, Religion, and Space: Global Perspectives on Gender and Faith, and is also the co-editor of the journal Historical Geography. Her articles have appeared in the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, and the Journal of Historical Geography. Professor Morin chairs both the Historical Geography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers (AAG) and is a past chair of the Geographic Perspectives on Women Specialty Group (GPOW). In 2005, Morin was elected to the Society of Women Geographers and held a Senior Scholar Fellowship at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City. She was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar to the Russian Federation, Nizhni Novgorod State University in the fall of 2002 and was a U.S. Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Tirana in Albania in September 2006. Most recently, Professor Morin received the AAG Jan Monk Service Award in 2007. She holds a B.A. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, a M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Bowling Green, and a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Bucknell Website http://www.bucknell.edu/x30750.xml
Historical Geography Journal http://www.historical-geography.net/
The Association of American Geographers http://www.aag.org/
The Society of Women Geographers http://www.iswg.org/
Syracuse University Press http://www.syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2007/women-religion-space.html