Hugo Córdova Quero
From 9 to July 11 2013 a group of social and religious scientists gathered at ISEDET University in Buenos Aires to honor the memory of Argentinean theologian Marcella Althaus-Reid.
The conference, organized by Postcolonial Networks, GEMRIP, and ISEDET University, was attended by 20 participants. The highlight was the presence of a new generation of academics and scholars who have made the work of Althaus-Reid their base to develop the task of teaching and research.
Under the theme “Pressing On: Legacy of Marcella Althaus-Reid” participants from Argentina, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico, and the United States initiated an interdisciplinary dialogue between systematic theology, queer theologies, queer theory, postcolonial/decolonial studies, and postcolonial theology attuned to the work of Althaus-Reid. The speakers focused on topics such as “postcolonial, postmodern, and postliberating theology;” “the deconstruction of the notion of minority as colonial concept;” “Queer holiness;” “Pussy Riot movement in Russia” and its connection to an “indecent theology;” “marriage equality in Argentina and evangelical churches;” “a queer reinterpretation of Judges 19 from the feminicides in Ciudad Juarez (Mexico)”, “an ethic of perversion from indecency as virtue;” and “the epistemological challenge to the corporeality of Latin American theologies;” among other topics.
Maria de los Angeles Marcella Althaus-Reid was born in Rosario on May 11, 1952, daughter of Ada and Alberto Althaus. She received a Bachelor of Theology (equivalent to M.Div.) at ISEDET University in 1986. She then received her doctorate (Ph.D.) from St. Andrews University, Scotland, in 1994. She was married to Gordon Reid, with whom she lived in Edinburgh, Scotland. Upon being appointed as Professor of Contextual Theology at New College, the Faculty of Theology of the University of Edinburgh, Althaus-Reid doubly became the first woman teaching theology at a Scottish university and the first professor of theology at New College in its 160 years history.
Gifted with a deep intelligence and analytical ability, Althaus-Reid was soon recognized in the academic world as a benchmark for a new generation of theologians and theologians of liberation, especially after the publication of her first book, Indecent Theology in the year 2000. It was this book that caused a paradigm shift in global theology, since her contribution clearly stated that body, gender, and sexuality are fundamental aspects to an incarnational and liberating theology.
Her criticism was that the concept of “the poor” coined by Liberation Theologians in the 1970s and 1980s did not only represent straight men and women, “decent” husbands and wives, but any person who is alienated by an oppressive system, whether it be political, economic, cultural, social, religious, sexual, or bodily. The “indecent” are those who do not embody rigid systems of moral codes. Those systems—in many cases—have been constructed to limit the life of the people. Her complaint about the crucial role the Christian churches in general and theology in particular have had in the oppression, repression, and scapegoating of thousands of human beings in God’s name, was a prophetic voice in the middle of the academic and religious landscape.
Prolific writer, teacher, and lecturer, Marcella published two books of her own, edited eight collections in which she gave the opportunity to emergent scholars to introduce their academic production to the world, and published more than fifty articles and chapters in academic journals and books.
The death of Althaus-Reid on February 22, 2009 left a deep void because her prophetic voice emerged as an icon of queer theologies. With her death emerged the same feeling we have when we read the testimony of the Gospels on the experience of the disciples in light of the death of Jesus; that sentiment questioning why good people die early. However, quickly arises the connection of death with the event of the resurrection, not as a dogma that has to be believed and repeated because it was just taught to us, but because it is the hope that in God, somehow, in some way, we will live again in community. Althaus-Reid knew about this when writing in her book From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology (2004):
The fact is that Jesus’ resurrection was also a community event: women and men witnessed how he came back from death, walked among them and continued the dialogue which existed before his crucifixion. Every death changes the life of the survivors, because some humanity is removed from them, so it is legitimate to think that, starting with Jesus’ resurrection, a whole community of people who suffered his loss when he was crucified came back to life again. Their eyes were opened in the sense that death took on another meaning; the resurrection became the paradigm showing us the durability and indestructibility of life and justice (2004: 113).
Those who attended the conference and had the privilege to meet Marcella Althaus-Reid in one way or another understand that a hallmark of her life, faith, spirituality, and work was a deep sense that life is worth living, and that to live it we must face the struggles. Her active participation in the Community of Quakers in Scotland was another example of her deep commitment to a spiritual life in community. Althaus-Reid’s work and legacy live on in those who attended this conference and in those around the world who continue to “press on” in the hope that a better world is still possible.
Althaus-Reid, Marcella. 2004. From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology. London: SCM Press.
Hugo Córdova Quero holds a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies in Religion, Ethnicity and Migration from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. He received a Master in Divinity from ISEDET University in Buenos Aires (1998) and a Master of Arts in Systematic Theology, Queer theory and (Post)Colonial studies from the Graduate Theological Union (2003). Currently he is Adjunct Faculty at Starr King School for the Ministry (SKSM) at the Graduate Theological Union. He has been visiting scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2006), visiting researcher at the Center for Lusophone Studies (2006–2009) and Postdoctoral Visiting Researcher at the Iberoamerican Institute (2009–2011) both at Sophia University in Tokyo. His areas of research are religious studies and queer theologies, ethnic and migration studies, critical theories (feminist, queer, and post-colonial) and cultural studies. He is a member of the research groups EQARS and GEMRIP.