Womanist interpretation addresses the simultaneity of multiple and overlapping oppressions such as racism, classism, and sexism while focusing on the experiences of African American women. Womanist biblical interpretation uses a similar perspective to analyze biblical texts.

Terminology.

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Alice Walker defines the term “womanist” in the front matter of her 1983 collection of essays, In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. Walker did not coin the term “womanist,” which meant “womanizer” in its archaic usage. Instead, Walker redefines the term in a creative, four-part description that highlights the term’s roots in African American culture. Walker writes:

"1. From womanish. (Opp. of “girlish,” i.e., frivolous, irresponsible, not serious). A black feminist or feminist of color. From the black folk expression of mothers to female children, ‘You acting womanish,’ i.e., like a woman. Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior. Wanting to know more and in greater depth than is considered ‘good’ for one. Interested in grown-up doings. Acting grown up. Being grown up. Interchangeable with another black folk expression: ‘You trying to be grown.’ Responsible. In charge. Serious. 2. Also: A woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually. Appreciates and prefers women’s culture, women’s emotional flexibility (values tears as a natural counterbalance of laughter), and women’s strength. Sometimes loves individual men, sexually and/or nonsexually. Committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female. Not a separatist, except periodically, for health. Traditionally universalist, as in ‘Mama, why are we brown, pink, and yellow, and our cousins are white, beige, and black?’ Ans.: ‘Well, you know the colored race is just like a flower garden, with every color flower represented.’ Traditionally capable, as in: ‘Mama, I’m walking to Canada and I’m taking you and a bunch of other slaves with me.’ Reply: ‘It wouldn’t be the first time.’ 3. Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless. 4. Womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender. (Walker, pp. xi–xii)"

Despite its complexity, Walker’s multifaceted definition of more than 200 words is often shortened to highlight a single element of the definition. For example, “womanist” is often condensed into a single phrase from part one of Walker’s definition: “black feminist or feminist of color” (Walker, p. xi). Another often-quoted phrase from the definition is the analogy: “womanist is to feminist as purple is to lavender” (Walker, p. xii). The emphasis on particular elements of this term contributes to confusion regarding its meaning.

Some African American women have embraced the term “womanist” and use it to describe themselves in contrast to “feminist.” Others prefer to identify as Black feminists. Of course, not all African American women identify themselves as “womanist” or as “black feminist.” Some prefer to use “feminist” without an adjective. Still others do not use these terms at all. Nevertheless, due to the popularity of Walker’s book and of the term “womanist,” there is a common misconception within broader society and within the academy that nearly all African American women and other women of color identify themselves as womanists. Yet, discussions regarding naming take place primarily among scholars and are not significant for most women outside of the academy.

Given the fluidity of Walker’s definition, the lines between womanism and black feminism are blurred. Some people treat “womanist” and “black feminist” as synonymous, but others, despite Walker’s definition, contend that womanism and black feminism are not interchangeable. They regard black feminism as an offshoot of feminism, which they associate with the interests and concerns of white women. In contrast, they understand womanism as a distinct entity that focuses on the experiences of African American women. For some women, the choice to use these or other terms to define themselves and/or their work allows them to situate themselves within a particular community and to include themselves within a historical trajectory.

Despite their differences, both womanists and Black feminists share a critique of feminism as focused primarily on gender issues. They may identify as womanist or as black feminist in part as a response to what they perceive as feminism’s failure to address issues of race and ethnicity. Also, both highlight the importance of treating oppressions not as additive but as multiplicative. For example, African American women face racism, sexism, and classism at the same time and experience these forms of oppression in ways that compound each other (King 1988). Similarly, a woman who is gay and a member of a religious minority group may face discrimination differently than a woman who is a member in the same religious community and who identifies as heterosexual.

Although the term “intersectionality” does not appear in Walker’s definition, it has gained traction as referring to the ways in which various oppressions intersect and overlap (Crenshaw 1989, 1991). Intersectional analysis interrogates race, class, gender, and other issues not as separate and distinct but as interlocking elements. Intersectional analysis has become an important element within black feminist and womanist thought. Patricia Hill Collins distinguishes intersectionality and what she terms a “matrix of domination.” While intersectionality examines these simultaneous forms of oppression, the matrix of domination “refers to how these intersecting oppressions are actually organized” (Hill Collins 2000, p. 18).

Beyond Walker.

While Walker is considered to be the pioneer of womanism, she is not the only figure involved in its development as other writers have developed different notions of womanism. Nigerian writer Chikwenye Okonjo Ogunyemi (1985) claims that she developed the term “womanism” independently of Walker. Now referring to the concept as “African womanism,” Ogunyemi (1996) rejects both feminism and African American womanism and offers African womanism as less individualistic, more familial, and more focused on the distinctiveness of African struggles within a global community.

Clenora Hudson-Weems (1993) has developed the concept of “Africana womanism,” which she distinguishes from feminism, womanism, and African womanism. Instead of using the terms “African American,” “black,” or “African,” Hudson-Weems uses a more inclusive term “Africana,” which refers to continental Africans as well as those who are part of the African diaspora. She does not use the term “womanism” as defined by Walker. Instead, she links “womanism” with the term “woman” and with the struggles of Africana women such as nineteenth century former slave and abolitionist Sojourner Truth who challenged traditional notions of womanhood. For Hudson-Weems, Africana womanism focuses on community and on the collective work of Africana men and women. The terms as developed by Ogunyemi and Hudson-Weems are not as well known outside of the academy. Walker’s definition of womanism is the most well known, but it is often simplified as merely another term for “black feminist.”

Unresolved Issues in Womanist Approaches.

Due to the intricacies of Walker’s definition, it can be understood to embrace a variety of viewpoints simultaneously, including somewhat disparate elements such as black nationalism, pluralism, and integration/assimilation (Hill Collins 1996). Since Walker’s definition was not a philosophical statement or an essay on womanism but a poetic description, its fluidity allows it to be used to support different and discordant concepts. In effect, the definition is too complex and broad to be helpful in identifying the primary elements of a womanist approach.

For example, the definition supports same-gender loving relationships as well as a commitment to both men and women. In part two of Walker’s definition, Walker writes, “Also: a woman who loves other women, sexually and/or nonsexually” [italics original] (Walker, p. xi). In the same section, she writes: “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female” [italics original] (Walker, p. xi). These statements are not incompatible, but some find these notions to be inconsistent due to the fear that same-gender loving relationships constitute a threat to black families made up of black straight couples.

The exclusion of homosexuality from black feminist and womanist thought in religion-related fields is partly tied to the conservative Christian influence in these fields. As discussed by theologian Monica Coleman, in her 2006 article “Must I Be a Womanist,” womanist thought within religion-related fields has stressed heteronormativity and has created a largely “Christian hegemonic discourse” (Coleman 2006, p. 89). While some scholars offer more inclusive viewpoints, womanist thought within religion-related fields remains dominated by Christian perspectives.

One key element of womanist approaches is a focus on the lived experiences of African American women. Due to this emphasis on the personal experience and the experiences of African American women, womanist work has become the domain of African American women and other women of color. For example, sociologist Patricia Hill Collins claims, “Living life as an African American woman is a necessary prerequisite for producing Black feminist thought.” (Hill Collins 1989, p. 770). Thus, black feminist thought uses standpoint theory to articulate the position of black women. Psychologist Layli Phillips (Maparyan) argues, “You’re a womanist if you say you’re a womanist, but others can contest you or ask you what womanism means for you” (Phillips 2006, p. xxxvi). Given the scarcity of African American female biblical scholars, this emphasis on personal experience may result in its continued failure to have an impact on the field of biblical studies.

Womanist Approaches in Religion-Related Fields Outside of Biblical Scholarship.

Womanist approaches are more prevalent in religion-related fields such as theology, ethics, and homiletics than in biblical studies. For example, Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society (2006), edited by ethicist Stacey Floyd-Thomas, includes essays from a variety of scholars, but it does not include contributions from biblical scholars. In fact, a majority of what could be called womanist biblical interpretation has taken place outside of the field of biblical studies. Womanist scholars discuss biblical texts extensively in their work and have done so for decades. For example, Jacquelyn Grant interrogates understandings of Jesus/Christ in her work White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response (1989). Delores Williams’s Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk (1993) analyzes the Abraham/Sarah/Hagar narratives (Genesis 16 and Genesis 21) in order to construct a liberative womanist theology.

Nevertheless, due to academic disciplinary boundaries, most biblical scholars would not consider the work of these scholars to be critical biblical scholarship in the traditional sense of the term. As narrowly conceived, biblical scholarship is written and presented by those whose primary training is in the discipline of academic biblical studies, who use the tools of the discipline, and who participate in the conversations taking place within the discipline. These disciplinary boundaries are not only applied to womanist work: many scholars within other fields engage biblical texts, but biblical scholars do not consider their work to be biblical scholarship in this sense. For example, theologian David Ford, ethicist Miguel de la Torre, and homiletician Teresa Fry Brown all engage biblical texts within their work, but their work is not typically considered to be academic biblical scholarship because it is not written by those who specialize in biblical studies. Similarly, womanist scholars outside of biblical studies are biblical interpreters, but their work is not considered to be biblical scholarship by those within the field. Womanist biblical interpretation by those within biblical studies is scarce and thus has had a minimal impact on biblical scholarship.

Womanist Biblical Scholarship.

Within biblical studies, the term “womanist” is commonly used to describe the scholar rather than a particular interpretive approach. That is, “womanist” is assumed to refer to a female scholar of African descent rather than to a critical approach to biblical scholarship used by that scholar. Currently, no clear consensus exists regarding what constitutes a womanist approach within biblical studies, and biblical scholars have not yet developed a significant body of scholarship that utilizes womanist approaches as a distinct critical method or set of concerns in an explicit way. Rather, African American female biblical scholars have generated womanist work that varies greatly in its relationship to Walker’s definition.

Key Figures.

Renita Weems is the biblical scholar who is most often associated with womanist biblical interpretation. She was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in Old Testament, having graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1989. Her book Just a Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women’s Relationships in the Bible (1988) was the first volume in biblical studies labeled as a womanist work. In this popular trade book, Weems focuses on the relationships between nine sets of biblical women, including Hagar and Sarah (Genesis 16 and 21) and Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42). Designed as a resource primarily for African American Christian women, this book provides creative interpretations of the relationships between biblical women and includes questions for thought following each chapter. It was revised and reissued as Just a Sister Away: Understanding the Timeless Connection between Women of Today and Women in the Bible (2005).

Many of Weems’s publications are similar to Just a Sister Away and are intended for popular audiences. For example, in What Matters Most: Ten Lessons in Living Passionately from the Song of Solomon (2004), Weems focuses on helping women to identify their passions and to find personal fulfillment. Also, in her memoir, Listening for God: A Minister’s Journey through Silence and Doubt (1999), Weems shares her personal faith crisis and describes her efforts to maintain her relationship to God.

In various scholarly publications, Weems describes womanist approaches to biblical texts as involving attention to multiple categories of oppression and as incorporating the personal experiences of African American women. For example, in her article “Womanist Reflections on Biblical Hermeneutics” (1993), Weems resists both the historical-critical method as well as the gender-focused analysis of feminist criticism. She advocates for a womanist approach that addresses multiple oppressions and suggests that women of color, having been victimized by these multiple oppressions, can bring their experiences to bear within biblical scholarship. Also, in “Re-Reading for Liberation: African American Women and the Bible” (2003), Weems argues that womanist biblical hermeneutics does not begin with the Bible; instead, it comes from the perspective of African-American women’s experience, in particular as survivors of slavery and as survivors of various forms of oppression. For Weems, womanist biblical hermeneutics begins with the notion that “people have power, not texts” (Weems 2003, p. 26).

Despite Weems’s varied discussions of womanist approaches, she has not provided more technical discussions that illustrate the usefulness of womanist approaches for critical biblical scholarship. For example, in her only book-length exegetical work Battered Love: Marriage, Sex, and Violence in the Hebrew Prophets (1995), Weems states that she uses her experiences as an African American woman in her approach to prophetic literature, but she does not construct or use what she names as a womanist approach. Although Weems is regarded as one of the key figures in womanist biblical interpretation, she has not used womanist approaches in detailed exegetical treatments of biblical texts in conversation with more advanced researchers involved in the critical discipline of biblical studies.

Clarice J. Martin was the first African American woman to receive a PhD in New Testament, graduating from Duke University in 1985. In “Womanist Interpretations of the New Testament: The Quest for Holistic and Inclusive Translation and Interpretation” (1990), Martin contrasts feminist approaches and womanist approaches and contends that womanist approaches are distinct in that they focus on rediscovering not only women’s voices but also the voices of the marginalized.

Martin examines the household codes (Col 3:18–41; Eph 5:21—6:9; 1 Pet 2:18—3:7) in “The Haustafeln (Household Codes) in African American Biblical Interpretation: ‘Free Slave’ and ‘Subordinate Women” (1991).” She highlights selected African American approaches to these texts and offers a womanist perspective in order to create greater gender equality between African American men and women. In “Polishing the Unclouded Mirror: A Womanist Reading of Revelation 18:13” (2005), Martin puts into conversation the critique of ancient slavery within this text with the African American experience of slavery. Her womanist approach highlights the experiences of African American and Africana women as marginalized peoples.

Both Weems and Martin are pioneers as African-American women who are trained as biblical scholars. They are frequently cited alongside feminist biblical scholars in a misleading way, as if they are illustrative of a group of womanist scholars. While Weems and Martin are certainly key figures in womanist biblical scholarship, they are not the leading practitioners among a large number of womanist biblical scholars. In fact, they are only two of the very few biblical scholars who name themselves and their work within biblical studies as womanist (Junior 2006). Moreover, for both Weems and Martin, womanist biblical interpretation is not an exegetical method with a step-by-step procedure but an approach to engaging biblical texts in a way that focuses on the perspectives and experiences of African American women.

Other Voices.

There are biblical scholars other than Weems and Martin who use womanist approaches in biblical studies, but there are only a few. Furthermore, these scholars differ greatly in their use of the term “womanist” and in the ways in which they apply womanist approaches in interpreting biblical texts. Koala Jones-Warsaw’s article “Toward a Womanist Hermeneutic: A Reading of Judges 19–21” (1993) is often cited as an example of womanist biblical interpretation. Jones-Warsaw sets her work in conversation with Phyllis Trible’s feminist treatment of Judges 19—21 in Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives (1984). In defining her approach to a womanist reading, Jones-Warsaw uses two segments of Walker’s definition: “outrageous, audacious, courageous, willful behavior (italics in Walker’s original)” and “committed to survival and wholeness of entire people, male and female” (Jones-Warsaw, p. 182). Citing theologian Jacquelyn Grant’s work, Jones-Warsaw contends that the purpose of womanist biblical hermeneutics is to “discover the significance and validity of the biblical text for black women who today experience the ‘tridimensional reality’ of racism, sexism, and classism” (Jones-Warsaw, p. 182). For Jones-Warsaw, womanism involves selective use of Walker’s definition and provides a perspective from which to reflect on the text.

Hebrew Bible scholar Wilda (Wil) Gafney identifies herself as a feminist or as a womanist depending on the context. In “A Black Feminist Approach to Biblical Studies” (2006) Gafney highlights four key elements of womanist work, including: multidimensionality, a focus on women’s experience, efforts toward the goal of eradication of human oppression, and making scholarship accessible to a “wider nonspecialist worshipping community” (Gafney, p. 392). In her translation and reading of Judges 14:1–20, Gafney names Samson’s wife “Yasherah,” although she is unnamed in the text, and highlights her humanity and her vulnerability. For Gafney, her role as a “black feminist biblical scholar” is to retell the story of the “silenced,” “unknown,” and “erased” (Gafney, p. 403). Gafney’s expanded notion of “womanist” does not focus primarily on African American women’s experiences although it does address multiple oppressions. Like Weems, Gafney’s major book-length work, Daughters of Miriam: Women Prophets in Ancient Israel (2008), based on her 2006 Duke University dissertation, does not utilize a womanist approach.

New Testament scholar Raquel St. Clair describes her womanist approach in one of the first published book-length treatments of a biblical text labeled as a womanist work. In Call and Consequences: A Womanist Reading of Mark, a revision of her 2005 Princeton Theological Seminary dissertation, St. Clair reads the Gospel of Mark through a womanist lens. She acknowledges her debt to the work of womanist theologians. Yet, her primary exegetical method is the cultural interpretation model developed by her dissertation advisor Brian K. Blount. This cultural interpretation model uses sociolinguistics in order to focus on language and the context of language. St. Clair uses this cultural interpretation model in conjunction with a womanist hermeneutics of wholeness. This womanist hermeneutics of wholeness:

  • 1. is focused on the wholeness of African American women;
  • 2. is grounded in the concrete reality of African American women’s lives;
  • 3. affirms that God supports African American women in their commitment to and struggle for wholeness; and
  • 4. asserts that the significance of Jesus is his life and ministry (St. Clair, pp. 82–83).

St. Clair develops a uniquely womanist approach that focuses on African American women but includes an especially Christian perspective.

Currently, there is no consensus on how to conduct womanist biblical interpretation. The approaches of Jones-Warsaw, Gafney, and St. Clair illustrate some of the diversity in womanist biblical interpretation as each author offers a different notion of a womanist approach that departs from the definitions of womanism by Walker and others. Yet, as is the case with Weems and Martin, these are not representative examples among a large group of scholars since there are few biblical scholars within womanist biblical interpretation.

Impact of Womanist Approaches on Biblical Studies.

Womanist biblical interpretation has not had a significant impact on the field of biblical studies in terms of the production of material for scholarly discourse. Among scholarly publications, St. Clair’s Call and Consequences is the only published monograph-length work that is labeled as a womanist approach to biblical studies. Currently, there is no edited volume in biblical studies using womanist approaches or scholarly journals dedicated to womanist biblical studies.

Within biblical scholarship, there is a limited awareness of womanist thought. The term “womanist” is sometimes mentioned in publications, but it is often linked with “feminist” and appears frequently as “feminist/womanist.” Yet, even when mentioned, there is relatively little engagement with womanist thought, such that the use of the term appears to be a weak attempt at inclusion of women of color without careful engagement with the complexities underlying the term as used and developed by Walker and others.

The impact of womanist biblical interpretation has also been minimal within the scholarly guild. At the annual meetings of the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), the largest scholarly organization for biblical studies, there is little engagement with womanist approaches. The many presentation sessions at SBL are divided among various program units and provide a way for SBL members with particular interests to converse and share ideas. While individual scholars may use womanist thought in their paper presentations, there is no program unit on womanist approaches. Active since 1880, the Journal of Biblical Literature, the primary publication of SBL, has not published one journal article using an explicitly womanist approach.

The limited impact of womanist biblical interpretation within biblical studies may be due, in part, to the very few women of African descent who are trained biblical scholars. Data are not available on the numbers of African American women with doctoral degrees in this field, but based on observation and anecdote, there are very few. Even among the few African American female biblical scholars, not all of those women choose to use womanist approaches to their work or develop aspects of womanist thought that would clearly distinguish their approach from feminist biblical scholarship in general.

Thus, it is understandable that womanist biblical interpretation is often linked with feminist biblical interpretation. Numerous publications include terms such as “feminist/womanist” or “black feminist/womanist.” Womanist biblical interpretation is related to feminist biblical interpretation and expands on feminism’s typical focus on gender to include multiple categories of difference such as gender, race/ethnicity, and class. Although womanist biblical interpretation is often regarded as analogous to feminist biblical interpretation, the two differ greatly in their influence within the field of biblical studies. While womanist biblical interpretation has had minimal impact in the guild, the impact of feminist biblical interpretation has been significant.

Feminist biblical interpretation by scholars who were trained in biblical studies emerged in the 1970s. These and other scholars have trained a second and third generation of feminist biblical scholars. Within biblical scholarship, feminist analysis is not commonplace, but it has become relatively mainstream. Many monographs, edited volumes, and journal articles using feminist approaches are published every year. The Women’s Bible Commentary, published originally in 1992, was revised and expanded in 1998. Also, a twentieth anniversary revised edition is forthcoming. At SBL, there are some sections that engage feminist approaches, including Feminist Hermeneutics of the Bible and Women in the Biblical World, which have been active in different forms since the late 1980s. In addition, other sections include and encourage presentations that use feminist approaches, which indicates how mainstream these approaches have become.

In general terms, a feminist reading of biblical texts involves focused attention on gender and power dynamics within biblical texts. The particular elements of a feminist approach to biblical texts are contested as there are no agreed-upon steps or procedures for feminist biblical criticism. Yet, unlike womanist biblical interpretation, feminist biblical interpretation has matured to the point of having debates regarding feminist approaches and eventually achieved some consensus amidst considerable diversity due to the extensive body of feminist biblical scholarship that has been produced over the last 40 years.

Furthermore, feminist approaches have been influential to the point that attention to gender is not necessarily labeled as “feminist.” For example, some scholars may prefer to identify their work as “gender analysis.” Also, some scholars choose to focus on women or gender construction but prefer to identify their work with the particular exegetical method or methods that they use. Unlike womanist biblical interpretation, which is assumed to be work produced by any black female scholar, no responsible scholar would assume that a female biblical scholar was necessarily a feminist or that her work involved the use of feminist approaches.

Some may caution against comparing the impact of feminism and womanism on biblical studies because womanist interpretation is still a relative newcomer to critical biblical scholarship and has not had as much time as feminism to have a substantive impact. On this point, the example of critical disability studies is revealing. Like womanist biblical interpretation, critical disability studies is a recent addition to the discipline of biblical studies, but unlike womanist biblical interpretation, disability studies does not rely on the personal experiences of those with disabilities. Thus, having a disability does not qualify one to be a disability scholar. Scholars who engage in work on disability may or may not identify as persons with disabilities. What they have in common is a critical interest in questions regarding the construction of disability and nondisability within biblical and cognate literature.

Academic disability studies grew out of the disability rights movement, but scholars who work in disability studies are not primarily concerned with advocating for the rights of those with disabilities. Instead, they are producing critical scholarship. There are an increasing number of scholarly monographs, edited volumes, and journal articles that address issues of disability in biblical scholarship. (For examples, see Junior and Schipper, forthcoming). Also, there is an SBL program unit Healthcare and Disability in the Ancient World, which began under a different title in 2004. Given its contributions to scholarly discourse, critical disability studies is emerging as in important subfield within the discipline of biblical studies. Although both are relatively new approaches in biblical studies, womanist approaches have not reached the level of inclusion within scholarly discourse that disability studies has achieved.

Future.

Given the very few numbers of African American and other women of color in biblical studies, womanist biblical interpretation will have a limited impact in the field of biblical studies as long as “womanist” refers to an individual scholar instead of to her work. It will be mentioned alongside feminist biblical interpretation as an effort at inclusive language, but it will not become a serious sub-field unless it produces critical scholarship that is in conversation with the wider discipline. The experiences of African American, African, and African diasporic women are important, but as long as womanist work remains work that is to a considerable degree “of black women, by black women, and for black women,” (Coleman 2006, p. 91) it will remain on the margins of biblical scholarship.

[ See also AFRICAN AMERICAN INTERPRETATION; AFRICAN BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION; DIASPORA STUDIES; DISABILITY CRITICISM; FEMINIST BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION; IDEOLOGICAL CRITICISM; LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER INTERPRETATION; QUEER CRITICISM AND QUEER THEORY; and RACE, ETHNICITY, AND BIBLICAL CRITICISM.]

Bibliography

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  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43, no. 6 (1991): 1241–1299. Legal essay that further explores notions of intersectionality in addressing racism and sexism affecting women of color who are victims of male violence.
  • Floyd-Thomas, Stacey M., ed. Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society. New York: New York University Press, 2006. Helpful volume on womanism from scholars in a variety of disciplines that includes responses from nonwomanist perspectives.
  • Gafney, Wilda. “A Black Feminist Approach to Biblical Studies.” Encounter 67, no 4. (2006): 391–403. Provides an example of a black feminist approach to biblical studies in reading Judges 14:1–20.
  • Grant, Jacquelyn. White Women’s Christ and Black Women’s Jesus: Feminist Christology and Womanist Response. Edited by Susan Thistlethwaite. Vol. 64, American Academy of Religion Academy Series. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1989. Distinguishes Christological readings of feminist and womanists.
  • Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Rev. 10th anniversary ed. New York: Routledge, 2000. Classic work that discusses key features of black feminist thought.
  • Hill Collins, Patricia. “The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14, no. 4 (1989): 745–773. Foundational article on approaching black feminist thought that stresses black standpoint theory.
  • Hudson Weems, Cleonora. Africana Womanism: Reclaiming Ourselves. Troy, Mich., 1993. Distinguishes Africana womanism from other terms.
  • Jones-Warsaw, Koala. “Toward a Womanist Hermeneutic: A Reading of Judges 19–21.” In A Feminist Companion to Judges, edited by Athalya Brenner, 172–186. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993. Offers a womanist reading of Judges 19–21.
  • Junior, Nyasha. “Womanist Biblical Interpretation.” In Engaging the Bible in a Gendered World: An Introduction to Feminist Biblical Interpretation in Honor of Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, edited by Carolyn Pressler and Linda Day, 37–46. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2006. Provides an overview of womanist interpretation in biblical studies.
  • Junior, Nyasha, and Jeremy Schipper. “Disability Studies and Biblical Scholarship.” In New Meaning for Ancient Texts. Edited by Steven L. McKenzie and John Kaltner. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, forthcoming. Discusses the history and use of disability studies within critical biblical scholarship.
  • King, Deborah. “Multiple Jeopardy, Multiple Consciousness: The Context of Black Feminist Ideology.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14, no. 1 (1988): 42–72 Moves beyond “double jeopardy” of racism and sexism and explicates the notion of “multiple jeopardy” and the necessity of addressing multiple forms of oppression.
  • Martin, Clarice J. “The Haustafeln (Household Codes) in African American Biblical Interpretation: ‘Free Slave’ and ‘Subordinate Women.” In Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation. Edited by Cain Hope Felder, 206–231. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991. Highlights treatment of Household Codes by African American interpreters and contrasts regulations regarding slaves and those regarding women.
  • Martin, Clarice J. “Polishing the Unclouded Mirror: A Womanist Reading of Revelation 18:13.” In From Every People and Nation: The Book of Revelation in Intercultural Perspective. Edited by David Rhoads, 82–109. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. Provides an example of a womanist reading of Rev 18:13.
  • Martin, Clarice J. “Womanist Interpretations of the New Testament: The Quest for Holistic and Inclusive Translation and Interpretation.” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 6 (1990): 41–61. Discusses the distinctiveness of womanist approaches in addressing oppressive structures.
  • Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo. African Wo/Man Palava: The Nigerian Novel by Women. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1996. Analyzes the work of eight Nigerian women and discusses the notion of “palava.”
  • Ogunyemi, Chikwenye Okonjo. “Womanism: The Dynamics of the Contemporary Black Female Novel in English.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 11, no. 1 (1985): 63–85. Discusses Ogunyemi’s notion of “womanism.”
  • St. Clair, Raquel A. Call and Consequences: A Womanist Reading of Mark. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008. Provides one of the first full-length womanist readings of a biblical text.
  • Phillips, Layli, ed. The Womanist Reader: The First Quarter Century of Womanist Thought. New York: Routledge, 2006. This edited volume illustrates a range of womanist approaches in multiple disciplines.
  • Weems, Renita J. Just a Sister Away: A Womanist Vision of Women’s Relationships in the Bible. San Diego, Calif.: LuraMedia, 1988. The earliest work labeled as a womanist work within biblical studies.
  • Williams, Delores. Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books 1995. Constructions of a womanist liberation theology through engagement with the Hagar narratives.
  • Walker, Alice. In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego, Calif.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. Collection of essays that includes famous definition of the term “womanist.”

Nyasha Junior