Unequal PartnersIn Search of Transnational Catholic Sisterhood

Unequal PartnersIn Search of Transnational Catholic Sisterhood

Casey Ritchie Clevenger

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9780226697413

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


When we think of Catholicism, we think of Europe and the United States as the seats of its power. Although much of Catholicism remains headquartered in the West, the Church’s center of gravity has shifted to Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia. Focused on the transnational Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Unequal Partners explores the ways gender, race, economic inequality, and colonial history are negotiated within religious organizations. Tracing the colonial and contemporary pathways through which sisters travel between Belgium, the United States, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, sociologist Casey Clevenger shows how the sisters of this order work across national boundaries and are constantly reworking the frameworks through which they operate. Although sisters belong to a transnational network that shapes their access to various resources, experiences, and personal relationships, Unequal Partners reveals these ties are not typically the most defining aspects of their daily lives within the organization. For the most part, transnational influences flow between regions through formal organizational pipelines that have less influence on sisters’ everyday practices. The tensions between transnational and local practices among members reflect longstanding struggles within Catholicism to balance the universal mission and claims of the church with local concerns. They also speak to broader processes of globalization, political and economic imperialism, and cultural hegemony.