Updated: Dec 20, 2019
Culture and its impact on positionality varies from context to context in the world and so must what we do in the church. So what exactly is positionality? Dr. Ellen Kohl, assistant professor of Environmental Studies at St. Mary's College in Maryland, defined it as how subjectivities both in research and in life relative to race gender, class, etc, impact each other intersectionally. Additionally, it is how these impacts are not static but are indeed fluid, meaning that the impacts situationally will differ both spatially and relationally. Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw defines the contributing impacts in social injustice as part of the definition of intersectionality more specifically as race, sexual orientation, age, religion, creed disability and gender.
It is recent my experiences with geographers that have revealed the factors of space and positionality to the dialogue on social injustice. What is extremely fascinating is the notion of an intersection between food, positionality, culture and the systems regulating each both individually and collectively.
I had always viewed the definition of culture in a very static way, however, In a recent podcast on culture and food justice, Dr. Pricilla McCetcheon, professor of Geology at the University of Kentucky and Dr. Kohl both pointed out the fluidity of culture, cautioning to exercise care when defining it accordingly. Dr. Kohl, remarked that factors contributing to food injustice in the United States are systemic in nature with multiple contextual impacts emphsizing the importance of recognizing culture as contextual. No static.
In the church, it is understood that our individual relationships with God operate systematically or in accordance to our life experiences with Him. It can be said that the church is a culture. Denominations are subcultures of the church and within that culture are other sub-cultures. All are fluid.
There is a notion in the African American church that God is always the same and never changes. If I were to apply the same rationale about culture and its impact on positionality, I would argue that God, in the christian sense is NOT static and is most definitely fluid in nature.
How would a static God be able to operate in a fluid world?
A world created by an omnipotent, omnipresent Being. Evermore asserting His positionality or "presence" in both good and not so good circumstances. Evermore admonishing us to have faith and believe that He can indeed be touched by the feeling of our infirmities. (Hebrews 4:11) Reminding us in diverse ways that He is "waymaker" and problem solver. Transcending culture, race, sexual orientation, age, gender time and space.
In biblical culture, there were many systems standing at the root of clashes between religious institutions and governments. All producing instances of, social, political and cultural overlaps. And in each, we can find evidence of the patriarchal strongholds that created social disparities especially with regard to gender…all of which operating systematically by God.
This reinforces the obligation the church should assume in impacting society and the constructs that hold people, communities, & countries in the bondage we see today, economically, politically, and culturally.