In what ways did Rita Gross critique and influence the field of women’s studies in the history of religions? In what ways is queer theory influenced by the work of Michel Foucault?

Rita Gross influenced women’s studies in religious scholarship because she went beyond typical Western religions and challenged claims of objectivity. Michel Foucault influenced queer theory because he demonstrated that sexuality was not ontological but determined by a person’s external environment.

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When it comes to the ways in which Rita Gross and Michel Foucault influenced their respective fields—theology and queer theory—think about how their work was groundbreaking and paved the way for future scholars in religious and queer fields of study.

Starting with Rita Gross, consider how she changed the normative Western viewpoint on religion. For Gross, religious studies in the West too often focused on Christianity and Judaism, and ignored other religions, like those deriving from Asia. Gross made it possible to assess religion in a fuller context. She also helped scholars deal with the difficulty of critically evaluating religion while facing up to the fact the certain biases are inevitable.

While Gross challenged normative beliefs in religious studies, Foucault tackled longstanding ideas in the department of sexuality. Foucault argued that the idea of sexuality did not spring naturally from the human body but was a creation of society and those that promulgate and maintain it—including doctors, parents, educators, law enforcement officials, and so on.

Foucault’s view that sexuality was a product of one’s specific cultural and political predicament resulted in a framework that ensuing scholars could utilize to further analyze how sexuality was inseparable from environmental factors.

For example, just as Foucault contended that sexuality derived from external factors, Judith Butler put forward the thesis that gender was constructed via outside elements. Without Foucault’s initial dismantling of established sexual tropes, integral queer theorists such as Gayle Rubin, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and Butler, might have lacked the theoretical base to build their particular theories.

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