Journal Article

Dianomy: Understanding Religious Women's Moral Agency as Creative Conformity

Elizabeth M. Bucar

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 78, issue 3, pages 662-686
Published in print September 2010 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI:
Dianomy: Understanding Religious Women's Moral Agency as Creative Conformity

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This essay seeks to contribute to work on moral agency of religious women through the creative naming of a dynamic that is emerging in recent scholarship. Drawing on fieldwork in Iran in 2004, I argue that prominent models of agency based on autonomy, heteronomy, and theonomy are unable take into account both religious influence on and individual creativity of women's actions. I propose the neologism, “dianomy,” meaning dual-sources of the moral law, to account for moral agency that relies neither exclusively upon the self as a source of moral authority nor exclusively upon religious traditions. Dianomy also attempts to comprehend creative ruptures in obedience to tradition, even when these innovations are unintentional. Such a concept is particularly important in order to correct past tendencies to ignore or even negate feminist politics that do not resist or strategically reform religious norms. With dianomy, tactical moves, actions that are not “freely chosen,” and even happy accidents can be studied as productive within traditional religious communities. I call these types of actions, which confound the actions theorized by autonomy, heteronomy, and theonomy, “creative conformity.”

Journal Article.  9526 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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