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Title: Towards a critical bisexual theology
Author: Smith, Karin Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 2714 9876
Awarding Body: University of Winchester
Current Institution: University of Winchester
Date of Award: 2011
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My thesis is an investigation into the phenomenon of bisexuality and the problems, challenges and opportunities it presents towards traditional Christian theology. I examine the deconstructive challenge that bisexuality and queer theory presents to what Althaus-Reid calls ‘Totalitarian Theology’. My methodology is literature based, comes from a feminist liberationist perspective and my own personal experiences as a bisexual woman, adopting the analytical tools of philosophy, psychology and sociology. Through the utilization of this method, I hope to give a better understanding of this difficult and complex subject. During the course of my investigation, I have discovered that much of the research undertaken by theologians so far within the area of human sexuality has largely centred on the phenomenon of homosexuality and heterosexuality. Other than the work of Debra R. Kalodny and Queer Theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid, very little has been written about bisexuality. In contrast to their work mine is an autobiographical self - reflective account of the difficulties faced living in a culture based on monogamous heterosexuality. The points in which Althaus-Reid’s work and my own diverge is in both cultural style and context. My bi-interpretation goes beyond hers because I provide a critical analysis of heterosexuality. My work is therefore unique, as I am using bisexual identity in a sustained and self-critical way with a view toward the creation of a ‘critical bisexual theology’ in my particular culture. When informed by queer theory, this has the potential to highlight the performativity of gender and its underlying instability. Bisexuality provides a further disruption because it also challenges dualism and it has a disruptive influence on the hierarchical structure, which is inherent within traditional Christian theology. The analytical tools of gender theory, philosophy, psychology and sociology bring to light the implicit dualism of gender construction and the power structures underlying it, enabling me to show how bisexuality has the potential to disrupt binary divisions. My chosen area of investigation also allows me to discuss body politics, sexuality and empowerment for both women and men alike. I ask if bisexuality is normative and, if so, why has it been repressed by religion and theology? If it is seen as normative, there are implications for both homosexuals and heterosexuals. I examine the implications of bisexuality for normative dominance and submission models of patriarchal sexual constructions, looking at the dangers these models create for women as well as challenging the notions of exclusivity that have been part of the patriarchal sexual package. Given that I am challenging the patriarchal system and the property ethic that underpins it, I wish to ask what level of intimacy is appropriate between consenting adults who are in other relationships? This question arises from the notion that bisexuals may need to express both sides of their sexuality if they are to remain functioning and developing individuals. Suggesting that people can be liberated into a wider understanding of sexuality, I will evaluate pleasure as a starting point for the creation of theology. Sexual non - conformity and pleasure is vital if, women are to have sexual autonomy it could be argued then that pleasure acts as an ethical guideline. An ethic of pleasure based on a model of partnership advances that sexual relationships based on love, trust and mutual respect rather than rankings of fear and force removes the ethical dilemmas experienced by people like myself who identify as bisexual. Taking my lead from Althaus-Reid, who is critical of holding onto our images of mono-loving gods and relationships and questioning such images, I ask which bodies can image the divine. We then get a radical incarnational theology because bisexuality is not just a way of thinking but is manifest in body knowing. Utilising her imaging of God in such a way a bi-god explodes the view of God as mono or duo. This image of God/divine can then be found in relationships that empower.
Supervisor: Isherwood, Lisa ; Stuart, Elizabeth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available