Inhospitable Landscapes

Disciplinary Territories and the Feminist "Paradigm Shift"

  • Sîan Melvill Hawthorne SOAS University of London


This paper examines Ursula King’s claim in her edited volume Religion and Gender (1995) that introducing feminist gender-critical approaches in the study of religions constitutes a paradigm shift for the field/discipline. I will sketch a broadly positive assessment of how this claim has been borne out, noting the important connection it advances between scholarly subjectivity and disciplinary identity, and drawing attention to the ways in which the working through of the paradigm shift has implied and instantiated a reconfiguration of disciplinary territory. The topological metaphors that underpin the feminist paradigm shift, as well as traditionally disciplinary terrain and transformation more generally, are helpful for examining how knowledge may be structured, taken apart, and remade, creating and remaking a certain kind of disciplinary citizen-subject on the model of the nation state that enables inclusion, but also exclusion. This latter point then leads to a more critical analysis that examines the function of feminist topologies in religious studies and outlining how the solitary focus on gender in the proposed paradigm shift marginalised race and postcolonial terrain, however much it challenged the androcentrism of religious studies. I will thus suggest that in staying true to the vision that King promotes through all of her work on 'religion and gender', the connection between scholarly and disciplinary identity she invokes, and the future she envisions, demands that the unfinished nature of the paradigm shift must be addressed such that an integrated/intersectional model of inclusion and complexity becomes the foundation for work going forward.

How to Cite
HAWTHORNE, Sîan Melvill. Inhospitable Landscapes. Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religion (JBASR), [S.l.], v. 19, p. 36-55, apr. 2018. ISSN 2516-6379. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 mar. 2023. doi: