Tuesday, May 24, 2022

History Vs Anthropology |An interactive discussion |Dr. Susan Thomas |Anish K.Joy(Ephudiakno Joseph)

oh hello everyone i'm anish kajoy i have with me professor susan thomas she's a professor in the department of history at kaladi-srishankara university and if i would like to speak bit more .

About professor susan she is a personality that was involved in the international digitalization project where a huge number of manuscripts in kerala was digitalized and was used for academic purpose also former vice president of kzz former delegate of cca meeting .

Representing syrian orthodox church in india now the good news is that she is also in future representing the 65th session on the commission on the status of women which is united nations program above all as an academian she did her .

Post-doctoral research on the manuscripts of saint mary's church gurupambari which is also another sweden orthodox church in india so hearty welcome to this program thank you mr anish it's very nice to be here on the program .

And thank you for those kind words of introduction mr is the associate professor in christian anthropology and specializes in areas of spirituality science and religion and inter-testamental studies at various institutions like the msots the saint paul's university among others .

He is a research fellow at the antoniano italy and what is interesting is that he is his topic on research of research is on the gender roles in the syrian orthodox church more than that he is also a board member of the holistic education at the sage guitar deborah and is currently director of .

Purnodia which is again another holistic educational institution but more than that he is the fifth order after yoko no joseph for the church thank you very much now we are dealing with a interactive program where history is meeting and anthropology .

Subjects and here professor susan is a historian i would like to invite you your attention like have you faced any challenges considering your roles of a professor wife mother and a daughter a very good question as .

We are approaching the international wednesday nsc which is always there at the back of our minds in the first weeks of march before i answer that question i would like to go back literally because uh as a person who's looked into history what we are today is very much affected .

By what we wear so when you look at the colonial period you would find that the roles that were defined for men and women happened during the reformation reform movements of the 19th and the 20th century where you have the women being told that she is solely .

In charge of the home of the children while the men were deemed they were demarcated their roles were demarcated for the outside the house spheres so it is these roles that we have internalized that we are taught to this is your role is what we are taught told to right from our beginnings .

So for the women who currently are also looking at fields outside the home she still has that responsibility back home she's told and everyone in society believes that her primarily responds she's primarily responsible .

To her how and her house as much so what happens is that many a times you would find the women being superwoman both at the home front and in the outside so she juggles various hats so to speak single-handedly and it and it is this juggling that makes things slightly more .

Complicated for us women than it is for men so as a woman as a professor as a mother as a daughter what i find is that these roles are things that i have to juggle always and many a times even now you would find that when the people in the house .

Help out the women it makes her life easier for her so if only you have that support of your partner and if only a partner compliments each other will you will the women be able to do their jobs much more easier and gain her rightful .

Place in the sun but many a times what we see is that women are solely entrusted to this and she is pulling that burden on her shoulders all alone but i was fortunate i think in that respect because i was able to get the help of the family .

But it is these roles that i was always difficult for me in the sense you know balancing it out is what is a problem most of the time that's nice actually you are kind enough in the sense and uh lucky enough to get a wonderful family now uh commenting on your response i would say like .

With the upcoming international day for women it's high time to redefine the roles of women i would say not just in the family but in the society as well and this re definition or redefining of the roles of women should happen i would say personally .

From childhood onwards when you teach yeah can i interrupt yes i would talk about redefining the roles of not just women redefining the role of men as well wonderful that is what is more important because our roles have been redefined by times we are told to go for the sky .

Literally you know go out go to work do this do that but the men also have to be told that okay you are also part of the family it is also your responsibility to see that things are shared equally that's right i think you more than redefining the roles for women i think you need to redefine the .

Roles that each one plays in the household okay so like uh in instead of using the term women maybe it's better an app to work redefining the roles of men and make it bit more clear to the society it is a mutual understanding .

Mutual love which matters for all yeah as far as i'm concerned uh what struck me when it comes to anish is that from a common baptized faithful he got elevated to the post of positions of koriyoyo and soon the fda keanu and you have not had moved into .

Priesthood which is a very common practice in kerala you know i mean one after the other and then you reach the final culmination with your priesthood but you are also involved in other areas like teaching anthropology .

You're looking at research and on a subject that is quite fascinating for me especially when it comes to men looking at gender roles in the syrian orthodox church so uh that is quite interesting for how is it that you landed up i mean looking at gender roles .

You know well this is actually a challenging question because this is not just a question from you as a colleague or a friend i would say this is one of the major questions that i have addressed in my entire life from my family from my colleagues .

From my students from my relatives from whoever i meet this is actually a very uh sensitive question actually i'm very happy that people are asking me about this because for me this uh being a faithful is the first step in any religious belief .

But i am trying to understand relearn and enter each step one by one and that doesn't mean i i was stuck with one of the term you use the culmination as priesthood just now you used actually but and that is actually i would also say that that is an effect .

Of the culture or the thought process the term because there is actually no culmination even a faithful is a culmination even a koruyo may be the term it's a syriac term it's koroyo means the reader but before that .

You have samarano which is a singer the the first and the second order goes for the normal uh faithful point of view which is that means a faithful then the third order is as i said before which is a singer the fourth order is koroyo the reader .

And the fifth order after which is uh the guard so if you calculate the different stages in priesthood i'm actually in the fifth order that doesn't mean it's there is no canonical rules that i should go to the sixth order it's an option and this .

Is a cultural thing that you find in kerala or maybe in india i mean i don't need to have a so much inclusive thought process because this is just in kerala or the people from a kerala background so i would like to again redefine myself my conscience i'm not still .

Sure that if i can be a sham shono which is a sixth order and the first order in priesthood actually okay that is a problem and shamshana is the first step of priesthood and not the of the okinawa okay so this is a kind of uh traditional usage that got into our .

Practice that it takes one by one and the culmination is a priest and if it is an unmarried person the culmination is the bishop or the metropolitan yeah and that has to be again connecting with the first point it has to be redefined or re-educated with the cultural .

Scenario and then i would say the second part is in the areas of teaching along with my travel made me to analyze each orders one by one carefully because uh um i would say i'm blessed or lucky to travel quite a number of countries i would say .

Until now i have traveled 33 countries uh it's not because i have money it's because of a part of my job part of my studies i traveled and all these travel made me to feel that i'm still a student and that level of studentship in my life made me to act in the first part of the .

Question which you said why i am and still in this form because i cannot i'm i am not yet feeling that i am able to be moved to the next level so i am still in the process of learning where if i am lucky or if i'm blessed and all these things it is not from a .

One-sided thought process there should be a mutual give-and-take process from our god and i believe in that there is a path and this is why i take things little bit one by one and the third point which you touch related with my studies is actually gender roles again it got connected with .

My research with my studies where when i am meeting different people from different cultures it actually opened my mindset from a traditional malayalam kerala keralite i was happy that i got what you say connected with different cultures where .

My friends my colleagues even my students when i was traveling my international students actually opened my mind so the level which i am currently i would say is still a student and i'm happy with that role yeah i i'm just reminded by uh of the .

Two adages that we often uh hear you know we are a student all our lifetime definitely and if you have that attitude you go far and travel of always broadens one's horizon i was also struck by the fact yes i have friends outside who are still .

Deacons for example the most prominent among uh the one i know is uh deacon george kira's wonderful he's a wonderful personality yeah he is a very wonderful personality who is both an academician and into church matters and that's a lot of research and also i was also stuck by the fact .

That you were talking about the third order which is very common for both men and for women and what you would see is that it is not right now at least we know that there are ordinations for women but that's not that .

Very common i i think uh the last deaconess that we know died 50 years ago in uh turkey but still uh even when i look at uh the synod of dying per decrease i was really uh struck by this decree where you know it was the time when the catholics decided that they should not .

Have priests who were married priests had to be unmarried and you have the degree whereby they in young the injunction is said that the women of the priest have to give up their position they have to give up the royal the cross that they .

Had the insignia of the cross that they were so probably they had special powers you know especially when it came to adult baptism and anointing of the sick and all that that was where when the church needed the woman the church brought them yeah gave them the opportunities .

Uh and of course as that uh those things where did not that those opportunities were no longer there it sort of faded their way into obligation i think i think that is uh i would also like to add on since you already touched the diamond center and all these points i .

Would like to say that uh when you actually are participating in a lot of church denominations program everyone talks about gender equality and i am proud to say that i'm really proud to say that if you're trying to say uh the term gender equality .

I would make a bit more pro i would say gender justice where my or our syrian orthodox church is actually doing a great gender gender justice rules forex why i would say because we have as you might be knowing female ordinations which existed just you said .

We also have like um the feminine form like the the priest and priestess kashi show kashish which i just now i said because um about the term or a deacon we have the nizo and we have derogato all these liturgies are there in our church above all the first change happened in .

Syria tradition is more afraid in the in his initial i would say third fourth centuries he bought the uh singers female singers choir where they they were given the role of samurai so all these happened not in the 21st century or maybe in the .

Centuries before when we were not even thinking about gender roles so actually it is there in our tradition it is there in our liturgy but unfortunately including me we are a bit lagging behind in giving them justice in the roles let's hope that in future .

That's nice we would have more gender roles yeah yeah in the church yeah uh by the way let me just uh make a small uh comment on the previous uh statement actually uh 50 years back it was actually kashish though .

Maybe uh we spoke about that but maybe it was confused with the term deaconness yeah yeah thank you now it's actually something in your main area history like from my small readings related with my academics most of the books especially historical books were written .

By actually men and there is a funny usage that i've heard many places and i would like to request your comment on that like his story is history how do you uh what do you say as a historian or as a female historian i would like to know your comments on .

That well if you told me that most of the books were written by men maybe uh 20 to 50 years ago i would have said yes okay yeah at that point because as i told before they are more free to pursue their own academic interests .

Okay they have no problems with uh mobility they're free to you know go wherever for their work do their references without really affecting their familial life so to speak but now it's different you would find a lot of .

Women historians writing in fact one of the most foremost historian as far as indian history is concerned is ramallah tapan she's a woman a widely respected person hundred percent and then you have indra saying i mean they're just one or two that i can just point out .

So we are now more in the tribe we have made our presence felt back in action we were always there i mean yeah no no i wouldn't say back in action but we are definitely there we are a voice that is counted and we have made our presence felt not just in the form of books but .

Also in new areas that have come up you know we have looked at gender histories we have looked at histories from the margins from the subalterns from the sides uh the dalit history and everything i mean so in that sense history has become more .

Inclusive we have have we have everyday histories that we have uh women writing about and uh where uh you have diaries of women coming up i mean lots of these works are there in the uh subject so in that connection even in the church for example as you mentioned susan .

Ashburg okay she's the one who bro brought our attention back to the choir girls in the case of kerala you have susan vishwanath yeah i wouldn't put myself in that league but still uh i've also looked into uh the histories as uh you said my .

Postdoctoral research was on the manuscripts in the kurukumari church so i've also done my little bit and uh even uh my colleagues are mostly women you know so who probably we are there it's not as if uh we are not there you can't write us off .

We are there in full force like i would uh like to comment things from one current scenario and also from a biblical point of view first let me take it from a biblical point of view like especially in the sunday schools or in our liturgies most of the creation story like most of the .

Points connected with creation stories is connected with genesis chapter 2 where women came from the rib rib but it's so sad that genesis chapter 1 verse 26 and 27 is very clearly saying about god created men and women on the same day which is totally like neglected or no one wanted to touch that area .

And uh something funny in connection with that i would like to say that when i was actually uh studying and working in italy i was i got got some time to interact with the u.n department the and some of the colleagues uh .

Seeing my background related with gender studies they asked me how can a man talk about gender equality that too it was a female personality who's dealing with uh uh gender department and um said this comment i was so what do you say stuck by it stuck or i don't know how come they can even .

Think about like that in fact it's a common misconception you know gender is for women gender is for both sex exactly and most of the time the gender stereotyping affects men also and we are really not we haven't looked much into it at all so that's something that is that .

Again when you go into books one has to look at the context i mean this must be because of the fact that a historian we are always looking into material context and the semitic religion is so much influenced by the jewish traditions the oral traditions .

Getting written at some point of time each of these books might have got written at some point of time and at that point of time what is the material culture and more than material culture what is the prevalent ideology that is there that becomes very important .

And it influences the writing i mean that is that would be why you have different versions of the creation stories in genesis itself as you have pointed out yes very true due to the time constraint actually i would like to move again to one question again to you like .

As you just said before we have seen a lot of female personalities in high positions such as prime ministers presidents head of the companies head of the institutions scientists and a lot more but the question is why we are not seeing not much female .

Personalities in church administration i think you just have to do it with the ideology again you know you have a very patriarchal uh sort of ideology that is there i think even right from the early church history if you look at it the uh .

Ideologies are quite patriarchal and once again when you come down you would even find that in the church the membership is mostly given to the head of the household who happens to be the mail even though and i must say even though okay .

It is always said that all of us are equal members and you have the women have the right to go and sit in the general modi in our churches we hardly find these but it also has to be complemented i would say this as a scenario maybe just in kerala or in india yeah .

Because we sit in orthodox people as a huge community outside india where there are leading roles being taken by females yes in church committees yeah in many church related activities so as you said the context culture probably seems to be kerala we have .

Managed to break the stereotype but in kerala i know a friend i i used to have a friend of mine uh professor sarama virgis who used to make it a point to go to the church general body meetings and sit and she used to tell me i just sit i just ask peop women to come with me she's no longer .

She's no longer alive now but um she was she used to tell me you know i have asked women to come and then the general attitude is why and it also is the part of the conditioning that the women aren't going through you know i mean these are areas that are not really related .

That you need that need not even relate that should be your concern i guess so that could be one of the reasons why in kerala this is happening while in outside kerala in our other countries and even outside as you said in domini church and other places you have women .

Which is very interesting you have female trustees we have had before yeah but in kerala we are ready to see let's hope that we make small steps we have hopes and people like you yeah the next question that i would like to ask is .

We always depict mother mary as someone whose main virtue is obedience servability submission and that sort of a construction is there and you can see it even in the art forms i mean how you depict mother mary that image of mother mary that comes to our mind is always like that so and also even in the .

Intercessionary prayers that you would see for mother mary you would uh find that the verses uh that the priest chants are that the women would be the typical examples of mother mary and humility and submissiveness and purity and things like that .

So uh in that sense mother mary is there in the church but she is depicted as somebody who is very silent but somehow uh i would like to think of her as a very strong woman a person personality as such because probably she is somebody who gave birth to christ .

In very adverse situations saw him being crucified on the cross and still was one of the persons who was very much there as an active adviser to the disciples so the church or the lay people in large does not really come to know about it so uh what how can we sort of uh re-look at .

Mother mary because this is the common stereotypical uh images that we have for mother mary well it's slightly i would say antique questions because uh everyone would like as you said it has become a common icon like mother mary considered as a icon of submissiveness .

Or humbleness her i would say only 50 percentage of her personality has come out yet 50 percentage is yet to explore and to bring out like taking it theologically i would say like every theology should start and end in our daily life .

Every theology the strong personality of our mother mary actually is seen in many of the females even in our parents sisters wives or daughters we have seen that but the problem is that they are not accepted acknowledged or respected in that sense .

Everywhere like if there is an issue between a brother and sister if there is is there an issue between a husband and a wife the first counseling goes to the female saying that you are a woman you need to be you need to obey or you are from a .

Female side look at mother mary she was so like loyal so down to her be like her so we are trying to always portray mother mary in that anger but on the other side biblically mother mary has a strong personality and it is very much seen in .

The confidence and boldness taken to conceive a child before marriage which was a big sin against the jewish culture who took the responsibility it was mother mary the strong woman the strong woman who who acted her life she used her own life to enact .

To live it actually to show the society i am strong enough to stand against it's not standing against the society but to listen to god's will and to stand for her convictions very true and this has to be acknowledged again the responsibility and the leadership .

Taken the wedding the khanna winning yeah she only asked her son jesus to support it was not jesus who realized or identified the issue so there is a connectivity of leadership there yeah but these uh qualities of mother mary is not yet explode i would say .

It is because all these things all these interpretation commentaries all the hermeneutical part has been done by the patriarchal fraction okay so that might have affected that doesn't mean mother mary is always or should always be in the secondary position she is primary she is a bold character .

She is a character that gave confidence to a lot of women yeah let's hope that people like you who teach in our seminaries and others are able to give this little spark of idea or thought to the younger generation of theologians who would re-look at her role in our church .

Now another question that i would like to ask about is connected to this itself i've always felt as the influence of saint paul and the methods of his jewish traditions or the graco roman traditions that were there or the greco-roman set up of the patriarchal set up that really .

In the sense further excluded women from church hierarchies or hierarchies of power and influence or even roles within the church what is your comment on that well i would say at some point it could be considered as a mistake of saint paul but i am not in a position to .

Judge someone but rather i would like to take or understand the character or the the vision and mission of saint paul which is actually was concentrated to preach about jesus to attract more followers for his lord jesus so this was his primary .

Agenda his vision and mission so and at the same time as you said before it was a jewish and greco-roman world where the the role of females is actually not even half of men yeah you have the jewish prayer thank god you didn't make me a woman and paul being .

A person who was grounded in that jewish tradition a learned person as far as we know right yeah that's true and also i would like to take uh one uh statement or one sentence from corinthians chapter 14 verse 34 women should remain silent in the churches .

They are not allowed to speak but must be in submission as the law says i think this is a quote that has always been used by people in the church uh that you know this uh women you should know your place in position and be in that place and position do not aspire for more .

Probably right actually this is actually contextual yeah why paul saint paul did this because it's purely contextual because the society was filled with uneducated women and the society didn't have much value for women .

Especially in jewish culture so when he is addressing a jewish converted christian he didn't want others to see that the community the women in my church or my community is less educated so for that reason he just requested the woman .

And he made it as a law so that in jews it is a rule i mean it's a system that always obey the yeah and also i was also interested uh in the uh gospel according to mary i've heard so much about it you being a person who is into theology and things i .

Would like you to throw some light on that if you could well that is a highly sensitive and uh bit scary question and i would like to take these things uh take this point from two different perspective an academic and also from a faith .

Related perspective let me talk uh very briefly from an academic level this um i don't know if you have um understood the scenario it was once uh how it came into existence like once it happened in the uh market in cairo where one was trying to sell a .

Manuscript to a german person and from there it started actually the german scholar when he saw this the the fact that came it's actually a piece of manuscript of the so-called the gospel according or acts of mary and let me uh before going to that part let me make it clear that actually it is .

Not saint mary the mother mary it's mary of magdalena magdalene it's always confused by the society and taking it from the academic point of view if you don't have the beginning and the end and you just have the middle few pieces it's it's really hard to identify the the the core essence .

And talking about it uh why it has still been challenged in the academic field because the introduction part is missing the conclusion part is missing only actually uh 30 to 35 percentage of the manuscript has been like found out or maybe the rest of the .

Manuscript is missing missing or forcefully damaged or god knows yeah so from that phenomena what has been the plot in that small fragments would be like this mary magdalene is trying to speak with the fellow disciples saint peter andrew levy and all these people that .

About her vision with the savior okay so the question that came up from the disciples like how can our savior god jesus can come to a in a vision of a female yeah that's the question forgetting the fact that it was to this very female that the lord appeared after resurrection see .

That's biblical yeah and we try to say when whenever we are trying to portray the roles of women we are trying to just highlight that just that but we are trying to forget all these background yeah we have to understand things in a perspective and a context and uh above all .

The the the point salvation was redefined and i would like to use the exact sentence salvation is achieved by within oneself the true spiritual nature of humanity and overcoming the deceptive entrapments of the bodily .

Passions and the world it's about going to oneself most of the interpretation comes up with the exhortations for others how you should be to others and here when we are trying to say about finding uh a spiritual fact within oneself is what mary trying to portray in this .

Gospel according to mary okay that's very interesting and um i would like to add bit more i would say uh in the when the questions or during those discussions that happened among the disciples mary .

Tenderly kissed them kissed them all gospel of mary chapter 5 verse 4 where as a response to that peter addresses mary as a sister that shows they had a kind of fruitful relationship a good fellowship good fellowship which is not currently seen in our .

Current culture and we always say happy women's day yeah in what scenario where if the fellow women is not respected acknowledged for what he she is and the gospel according to mary is actually very relevant at this point i would from a faith related aspect if i .

Am addressing this i would say even the the the part the revelation part in our bible is not much seen in our liturgies and all these church related why it's debatable yeah there are a lot of interpretations commentaries hermeneutical approaches which is yet to be .

Justified from a faith perspective similarly since we don't have a proper solid piece of gospel of mary we are not using it from a faith relative aspect okay i mean that was a very interesting discussion especially because you hear a lot about the .

Gospel according to mary and thank you so much for that piece of information both from the view of an academician as well as from the view of the faithful of the syrian orthodox church i hope that these discussions that we have had today we have enjoyed having this conversation .

Because uh it helped us look into our own perspectives it helped us look into our own fields in a much broader way in the context of the women's day what i would like to ask the viewers and my fellow uh faithful of fellow brothers and sisters .

Is that it's not only for women's day that you need to come up with women related topics in our everyday life in your own homes in your own little little spaces meet the office beat the playground where .

You should look at the women and give us that opportunity to come up to be ourselves so that we are also secure only if you have a very comfortable relationship with both these sex or the both the genders will we have a more equitable society a .

More just full society it's been really wonderful talking that's true and i would also comment from my side like rather than talking about gender equality i would like to use the term or suggest the term gender justice yes to the society because everywhere it talks about .

Gender equality at some point it doesn't make sense for me at some point that doesn't mean i am against gender equality but the right terminology would be gender justice where we need to show our justice to our fellow human being yes whether it is a male or female or a .

Third gender we need to show justice and justice is the right term even in our daily life show justice to yourself your own conscience yeah so let's have more gender justice thank you very much it was really nice to have you here thank you so much for having me thank .

You thank you oh


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