Gender and Violence in Religious Contexts: Differential Comparisons of Ancient Greece and Early Modern India
Fri, April 19, 2013 • 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM • Meyerson Conference Room, WCH 4.118
Dr. Florence Pasche Guignard
Postdoctoral Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation
University of Toronto, Department for the Study of Religion
York University, School of Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies
Several questions situated at the intersection of religion, gender and violence will be the focus of this talk at the University of Texas at Austin. An analysis of selected examples from literary sources of Ancient Greece (Aeschylus, Euripides, Plutarchus) and from a devotional and hagiographic tradition of early modern Northern India (poetry attributed to Mirabai) through differential comparison highlights the diversity of scenarios featuring violence against female figures in a religious context. This approach brings attention to the variety of the occasions in which a transaction with a god or a ritual context can be harmful rather than safe for female figures in terms of reputation or bodily damages. A careful, non-essentializing and non-universalizing comparison focusing on difference rather than on similarity is a fruitful tool for proposing clusters of research questions that are relevant in larger contexts for the study of religions. We will ask, for instance, whether ritual or devotional practice is a safe or a dangerous activity for female figures, and where potential attackers come from. In mythological narratives, can the god himself be represented as violent toward women in particular, or should he necessarily be shown as a protective deity saving his female followers from violence? The issues of danger, protection, vulnerability and invulnerability during or after a transaction with a god are particularly at stake.