Alka Arora

Department Chairperson
California Institute of Integral Studies, U.S.A.

"Re-Enchanting Feminism: Challenging Religious and Secular Patriarchies"
Most of the world's peoples have understood human existence as embedded within, and radically connected to, a multi-dimensional reality that includes nature, nonhuman animals, and a multitude of invisible beings and energies. While this basic cosmological orientation is shared, in varying ways, by the world's patriarchal religious traditions, these traditions did not invent this worldview. Rather, humanity's sense of the numinous preceded the historical development of patriarchal religions.

Thus, when modern secular feminists abjure the realm of religion altogether, believing it to be irreedemably sexist, they "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Further, the alternative to which they turn - secular materialism - is itself imbricated with a history of sexism, racism, and colonialism. Far from being an 'objective' and apolitical stance on reality, secular materialism has its own epistemological biases and value judgments that warrant interrogation.

I suggest in this paper that feminists take a critical stance toward both patriarchal religion and patriarchal materialism and consider alternate epistemological and metaphysical frameworks. In particular, I highlight Lata Mani's (2009) concept of Sacred Secular as one compelling framework that affirms feminism while moving beyond the religion vs secularism binary. I also share examples from the feminist spirituality movement and from Indigenous scholars across the globe who challenge the idea that liberation from oppression is to be found in Western-derived materialist constructs. These examples suggest the possibility of a post-secular feminism that understands the political struggle for liberation and justice as simultaneously a spiritual struggle for connection, meaning, and transcendence.