Course: Counter-Oppressive Sociologies

Fall 2015. Rich sociological traditions offer tools and knowledge for dismantling systems of oppression, creating social change, and building just faith communities. This online course offers an introduction to the critical analysis of social behavior, organization, and institutions for faith leaders and religion scholars. Students engage foundational texts and empirical research relevant to human experience as well as religious tradition, in order to develop theoretical and substantive bodies of knowledge as well as interpretive skills. Focus areas include feminist theory, affect, postcolonial thought, biopower, social movements, and critical race theories, among others. In each weekly unit, central questions address the nature of human action; the role of State power and ideology; notions of self, “other,” and agency; and systemic oppression and social change. The course requires weekly on-line discussion and frequent live video sessions. Students complete a final project by producing a photo essay as part of an online exhibit.

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I am a feminist doing interdisciplinary work in ethics and sociology in undergraduate and graduate education, as well as community and congregational settings.

My objective is to provide public, pastoral and collaborative teaching that ultimately promotes the health and wholeness of communities and vulnerable populations.

I guide students in responding to womanist/Black feminist challenges to traditional or well-represented scholarship and using intersectional methods to address real-world ethical and social problems. #blacklivesmatter

I am inspired by my personal experiences, relationships and observations, which keep me grounded and hold me accountable to anti-racist, feminist methodologies, pedagogies, and community organizing.

I bring an enthusiasm about the relationships between congregational life, ministry-activism and academic scholarship to my teaching ministry.

Pedogogical Framework

I value structure and freedom equally in my approach to course design and classroom management: providing safe containers for critical engagement with scholarship, and the opportunity to cultivate knowledge that spills out onto the streets.

I value rigorous academic work and inviting joy in the research and writing process.

I believe the classroom (on-line or residential) is an opportunity for mutual appreciation, serious inquiry, and application of theoretical and substantive material to professional and ministerial contexts.

I encourage further academic study to reward one’s passions and develop engaged scholarship that contributes to emerging and ongoing dialogues about important moral and societal issues.

My courses invite:

  • Praxis – rigorous reflection and action that takes place within the classroom as well as in coalition building among students and groups/individuals outside of the academy walls;
  • Co-learning and Peer support – built-in opportunities for collaborative work among students and an environment of collegial support for writing, research and leadership;
  • Marginalized voices – including voices other than those of the instructors, seeking out sources that are excluded from and challenge traditional/overly represented scholarship;
  • Historical consciousness – teaching and learning takes place in a socio-historical context, in which courses are building blocks toward lifelong learning goals, resting on shoulders of other teachers, ancestors and traditions;
  • Rigorous, counter-oppressive research – intellectual work that is accessible, anti-racist, anti-oppressive and liberatory is necessary to create/sustain just communities.

Beyond Interdisciplinary – Interstitial

I often teach through an interstitial lens, exploring the “negative” and “unexplored” space among disciplines and areas of academic and professional interests.  I recognize the need for education to violate traditional norms in order to find the place where students might come together to produce knowledge that adequately responds to issues of justice and care.

My Teaching Philosophy

On the Road

Bring Megan to you. Megan is available to lead Sunday Worship, workshops, lectures, and classes. She is excited to learn about your community.

She is also available for weddings, memorial services, and other rites of passage. Please e-mail her to inquire: megan.dowdell@gmail.com

 

 

Course: Resilience & Resistance

Learn ethics to counter oppression and design strategies to sustain your ministry/activism. This course was offered at Starr King School for the Ministry, a member school of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California.

This intensive seminar roots itself in the dialectic between resistance and resilience of communities and congregations in a world where survival requires than bouncing back from crises and adversity. Geared particularly toward MDiv and MASC students, this course places life stressors, safety and health in the context of oppression, white supremacy and social movements. Through rigorous study, dialogue and spiritual reflection, students will understand the historical and cultural dynamics of stress and resilience, identify contextual factors and healthy strategies, and promote cultures of resistance in their ministries and activism.

This is What Theo-Ethics Sounds Like: Tim DeChristopher’s Powerful Words to the Courtroom

Today, Tim Dechristopher, a climate activist, was sentenced to two years in federal prison for disturbing a 2008 Bureau of Land Management auction in Utah.  Prior to the reading of his sentence, he had the opportunity to address the court and the judge. DeChristopher is 29 years old; his words to the court, which have been made available at CommonDreams.org, are at once autobiography, theology, and a moral call to action.

“With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.”

Please read his statement in full: I Do Not Want Mercy, I Want You To Join Me
by Tim DeChristopher

Solidarity, Not Solitary: 6,600 Prisoners Across California Participate in Hunger Strike

Across California, 6,600 prisoners have joined in the hunger strike that began July 1 with prisoners held in security housing units, a sanitary term for solitary confinement, inside Pelican Bay State Prison refusing food and issuing demands that include adequate food and nutrition, an end to group punishment and abuse, as well as compliance with the 2006 Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons recommendations on ending solitary confinement practices.  On the outside, demonstrators and coalitions have shown their solidarity with the prisoners through rallies in various cities, online petitions and calls to action.  So far, the California Department of Corrections and “Rehabilitation” (CDCR) has refused to negotiate or shown any signs of addressing prisoners’ demands. Check out the rest of my posting at Tikkun Daily.

Solidarity with CA Pelican Bay Prisoners is Just a Click and a Prayer Away

In July 2011, 43 prisoners inside California Pelican Bay State Prison’s security housing unit (or SHU, a fancy name to get those of us not in prison to think it is something other than solitary confinement and all that entails) began a hunger strike against torture and for self-determination and liberation.  Solidarity with prisoners who are organizing themselves for justice is just a click away.  Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, a San Francisco Bay Area coalition of grassroots organizations “committed to amplyifing the voices of and supporting the prisoners,” has a blog  and I suggest you check out like I did by clicking here.

It’s day two and at the same time as these 43 prisoners refuse food in participate in this hunger strike at Pelican Bay, 2.3 million people are in similar conditions, marginalized in solitary confinement and isolating conditions within an already hidden and dehumanizing system.  For those of you who have not thought about the prison industrial complex as a justice issue for people of faith specifically, just that number of people hidden in our society seems like something to pray on. Here’s a couple other reflections that convinced me to learn about mass incarceration as a social justice issue and now to write about and pray for the Pelican Bay prisoners:

  • To get through prison and to survive as a formerly incarcerated person, is resistance in and of itself to the policies and practices carried out throughout the U.S. Resistance is an expression of faith.
  • To become organized for justice is an act of faith in community, the communities we see daily and those communities hidden from us for one reason or another, structurally or socially, emotionally or culturally.
  • Equal access to health care is a human right.  The demands listed by the Pelican Bay prisoners include necessary reforms to the currently inadequate health care and nutrition available.  The conditions under which the 43 prisoners begin this hunger strike are dangerous.  People of faith everywhere call for health care justice — prisoners are no exception to those who deserve equal access to quality care and food.
  • People of faith have the power to link communities to justice issues in our congregations and to build religious leadership for change.  We have the chance to strike up a dialogue about the intersections between mass incarceration and issues of police brutality, housing, employment, education, and yes, unearned privileges.

If you’re with your faith community tomorrow, will you tell them it’s day three?

For ways to take action, visit the Prisoners Hunger Strike Solidarity blog.

Conference Paper: Unitarian Universalist Emerging Scholars Conference

On Friday, April 8, I presented a paper at the Unitarian Universalist Emerging Scholars Conference hosted by Starr King School for the Ministry and also co-sponsored with Starr King by Harvard Divinity School, Meadville-Lombard Theological School and the Unitarian Universalist Association Panel on Theological Education.  I recommend checking out the Tikkun Daily posting by Michael Hogue (Meadville-Lombard) that discusses this invigorating experience.

Conference Paper: “‘The Story Can Be Told Another Way:’ The Contributions of Womanist Ethics to…Bioethics”

On Monday, March 28, 2011, I presented a paper on the Womanist/Pan-African section’s panel at WECSOR, entitled “New Womanist, Religious and Theological Lenses in the Study of the African Diaspora,” in Whittier, California.  My paper will be one of three on the panel and is entitled: “‘The Story Can Be Told Another Way:’ The Contributions of Womanist Ethics to the Principle of Respect for Autonomy in Bioethics.” The paper presentation represents a project very much in-progress.

I enter the dialogue between womanist ethics and bioethics through a very recent and very public example of the intersection of race, health and ethics: the ant-choice billboard campaign protesting Planned Parenthood: “The Most Dangerous Place for an African American is in the Womb.”  In many ways, this destructive ad campaign, which has been featured in Illinois, Texas, Florida and NY, represents the need for bioethics to be responsive to womanist theo-ethical lenses in new ways: invoking the African American woman’s womb as a place of danger has an unsettling history to say the least. Where is the principle of respect for autonomy and its underlying framework for morality now? How does womanist analysis of the fantastic hegemonic imagination help illuminate how “the story” of Black women’s wombs (and even Planned Parenthood) “can be told another way?”

Tomorrow, I hope to show that it is in life experiences and historical consciousness where discussion of principles, particularly a respect for autonomy, should begin.

Stay tuned for a posting of my presentation along with (hopefully) a podcast.