Unconventional Sisterhood

Feminist Catholic Nuns in the Philippines
Heather L. Claussen
An unusual ethnography of Catholic sisters in the Philippines


Unconventional Sisterhood is an ethnographic exploration of the ways in which Filipina Missionary Benedictine Sisters are renegotiating traditional understandings of gender, religious responsibility, and national identity in the context of a rapidly globalizing nation. Unlike the popular stereotypes of staid sisters cloaked in rigid religious dogmatism, they are doing so by telling jokes, engaging in eclectic religious rituals, maintaining connections with a local nationalist cult, and committing themselves to a radical and feminist politics.

This work represents an important addition to scholarship on Philippine feminism. It is one of few ethnographies that focuses on female monasticism—of particular cultural importance in the Christian Philippines, where nuns enjoy relatively high social status and freedom from many of the traditional constraints delineating Filipina lives. It is noteworthy as well for its focus on metropolitan Manila—a socially complex, dynamic, diverse, and understudied environment.

Heather L. Claussen is an anthropologist currently living in Santa Cruz, California.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . provocative and controversial. . . . She presents her subjects of study in a way that brings them vividly to life, and she brings their various narratives together analytically. . . . Her study is what I perceive to be of the genre of new ethnographic writing hat hinges on the subjective realm. It promises to raise the eyebrows of many a scholar of Philippine studies across the disciplines. It would make a useful book to include for discussion in upper-division method and theory courses."
    —Kathleen Nadeau, California State University, San Bernardino, Journal of Asian Studies, February 2003
  • "[The] tension between being a professed woman in an organisation that traditionally oppresses women and working to illuminate that domination and subjugation for others is what makes this book an important and forceful text. Claussen is at her best when she takes seemingly small events that are at the interface of this contradiction and analyses them to show the extraordinarily complicated lives that the feminist-inspired Missionary Benedictine nuns lead. . . . Unconventional Sisterhood is a must on the shelves of those interested in religion and gender in the Philippine context, as well as for Southeast Asianists, Filipinists, and feminist theorists and theologians more generally."
    —Carolyn Brewer, Murdoch University, Pilipinas, March 2001

Look Inside

Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 264pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11221-0

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  • $84.95 U.S.