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Sîan Hawthorne


In this paper I examine Arvind Mandair’s retrieval of the posttheistic ontologization of language in early Sikh thought, an aspect which is fundamental for his argument for Sikh postcolonial secularity. However, he frames his argument by drawing—implicitly and explicitly—on a parallel modelling of the ontological function of language found in Lacanian psychoanalysis. Whilst finding much to affirm in Mandair’s argument, I query the extent to which its subterranean reliance on psychoanalysis runs the risk of replicating the Lacanian marginalisation and ultimate exclusion of female subjectivity (paradigmatically the mother) as a figure of alterity and of lack. I argue that a model that promotes the ontology of language as a liberatory and inclusive political tool must also account for the gendered and thus potentially exclusory nature of language.

Sîan Melvill Hawthorne

In this paper I examine the uneasy intersection between ‘religion’, ‘gender’ and ‘postcoloniality’ as it is staged in the sub-field of religion and gender within religious studies and theology. Noting the lack of sustained attention in this field to those postcolonial challenges that might question the prioritization of gender as the site from which critique should be originated, and suggesting that this neglect might compromise the assumption that, because of its alignment with the politics of the marginal, it is comparatively less implicated in colonial knowledge formations, I argue that scholars of religion and gender risk perpetuating imperialist figurations found elsewhere in the academic study of religions. I propose the figure of the catachresis, as theorized by Gayatri Spivak, as a potential step towards displacing those European concept-metaphors and value-codings that both derive from imperialist ideologies and sustain the fiction operational within much, though not all, religion and gender scholarship of a generalizable or normative epistemic subjectivity. I suggest these ideologies ultimately prevent an encounter with the women and men who exist beyond this mode of production and whose priorities may be configured entirely differently to those that seem currently to inform and produce the intellectual itineraries of the field.

Sîan Melvill Hawthorne and Adriaan S. van Klinken