Creating and Sustaining Spaces for Marginalized Spiritualities
& Social Transformation
By: Chandra Alexandre
Presented at the 5th Annual Conference on Current Pagan Studies, February 2009, Claremont University
In early 2000 when I first began an exploration of dissertation topics, I was coming fresh off of several years’ worth of engagement at the intersection of politics and feminism. Developing an integral ecofeminism, as I called it some ten years ago, had left me with a clear sense of not only the importance of the combination of activism and spirituality when attempting to create a more just and sustainable world, but also the reality of how people were taking ideas motivated by a deep connection to Spirit out into the work and relationships of every day life.
It was somewhat natural then that as I turned my sights to the grassroots environmental movements of South Asia, I was concerned most with the question of whether or not there were spiritual motivations for some of the most famous women-led movements of the time. Did the Chipko, or tree-hugging, movement, for example, connect trees to the heart and spirit of people in Uttarakhand (India), and not just to their stovetops and livelihoods (although that, in and of itself was important)? Was the planetary not only the personal…but the transpersonal? And if spirituality mattered, I wondered, how much did it matter in the quest for equality and justice, as through these movements…then again, did it matter to those who didn’t claim a religion but were responding to “a calling” in their work born out of what might be called a “spiritual sentiment”?