How to think differently about Christianity

1. The main purpose of Kwok’s book is to extend postcolonial scholarly discourse. Building on the work of Edward Said, Kwok claims that contemporary Biblical scholarship and theology has been inextricably linked to colonial structures, paradigms, and assumptions. These underlying epistemologies have a strong impact on how theology is conducted, and the implications thereof. Kwok wants to change how theology is done, which is beyond a discursive activity. Although the book is too complex for one thesis statement, Kwok’s key thesis would be that the “postcolonial imagination refers to a desire, a determination, and a process of disengagement from the whole colonial syndrome, which takes many forms and guises,” (3). The purpose of the book is stated well, albeit in a lengthy way. It is certainly justifiable in light of the progress that has already been made in postcolonial scholarship.

2. The key question the author is addressing is how to think differently about Christianity, Christian theology, and about postcolonial politics, too, and what different modes of thinking might mean for changing real world relationships and power structures? Kwok phases the question as how it is possible to “decolonize the mind”? (22). From this central question, the author poses numerous corollary questions. For example, Kwok wants to know how the voices of marginalized communities and particularly women can be effectively woven into a cohesive narrative about human past, present, and future possibilities? The author also wants to know how theological discourse can impact political realities.

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3. The most important information from the book include an explication of the process of “decolonizing the mind,” which is addressed in the first section of Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology. Central to the process of decolonizing the mind is incorporating the experiences of women of color because patriarchal hegemony has shaped not just the substantive content of theological discourse but its discursive practices and assumptions too. Second, Kwok formulates a cohesive postcolonial feminist theology, borrowing from queer theology and feminist theology. The author claims that it is important to shift to a transnational approach to truly liberate the mind and shift the balance of power. Kwok uses an abundance of relevant empirical and anecdotal evidence from multiple sources including narratives that fit within the proposed postcolonial feminist theological process.

4. The main inferences that move forward the overall argument of the book include welcoming multiple voices to promote the process of postcolonial feminist theology, and how to “resignify” gender entirely (Kwok 23). While prior postcolonial and feminist discourse have focused squarely on the results of patriarchy, Kwok suggests that the future depends on actually restructuring political realities through different approaches to knowledge and power. Because theological knowledge has inherent power, the author shows how reinventing Christianity is not just possible but is already taking place. Political upheavals in the postcolonial world often parallel the process of feminizing theology, and envisioning a feminized Christ is also part of the process, something that the author addresses in Chapter 7. The author is also eminently concerned with pluralism, affirming its necessity to equalize power structures worldwide. In addition to referring to alternative points of view, the author does use a sound line of reasoning to substantiate the claims.

5. The author’s main assumptions include the relevance of theology on restructuring global politics, and the importance of feminist theology in promoting social justice. The author seems ironically committed to a Christian worldview in spite of claims towards pluralism. However, the author remains sensitive to her position and places it within a global context. The first section of the book more squarely addresses these concessions, and the author deftly extricates herself from the problems that would have been inherent in assuming that postcolonial feminism and social justice both depend on theological arguments.

6a. If readers take the author’s line of argument seriously, the implications are that plurality of perspective is actually possible. The implications are that diverse voices can come together in harmony to create a new vision for the future of international relations, shifting feminist theory from academia and placing it squarely on the world’s stage. The author wants the reader to invest in her point of view, to move beyond just critical thinking about the problems of patriarchy and hegemony. It is important to now focus on how to build a new future based on the principles outlined in the text, such as inclusivity and justice.

6b. The author’s line of argument implies that next steps towards achieving social justice, gender equity, and parity are grounded in how individuals think about their role in the world. Because the first section of the book focuses on the

postcolonial imagination, the author wants to show how epistemology and modes of thinking are the foundation for change. No social or political change can be effective or take root globally without first restructuring the ways people think, which is achieved by shifting outmoded cognitive patterns. The author certainly displays sensitivity to the implications and consequences of the position.

7. The point of view of the author is that of an Asian-Christian with a global worldview. Drawing on Christian theology ironically aligns the author with European colonial structures, which she then attempts to dismantle and reassemble using a postcolonial and feminist imagination and method. The author’s work is multidisciplinary, drawing from sociology as much as religion, philosophy, and anthropology. Taking into account the challenges to reworking the rigid and crystallized versions of political, religious, and social institutions, the author does show sensitivity to alternative points of view and responds accordingly, albeit all the while remaining steadfast to her position.




Works Cited

Kwok, Pui-lan. Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005.

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