Dissertations and Theses @ UNI

Award Winner

Recipient of the 2008 Outstanding Master's Thesis Award - Second Place.

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Open Access Thesis


Women and religion; Rational choice theory; Brasher, Brenda E., 1952-. Godly women; Rodriguez, Jeanette, 1954-. Our Lady of Guadalupe;


While women are generally oppressed within hierarchical and patriarchal religious traditions, researchers continue to detail the ways women negotiate power and construct meaning in religion. Within this thesis I interrogate the use of rational choice theory, a prominent theory utilized to describe religious behavior, as a framework for the analysis of women's religious experience and agency. I compare two texts, Brenda Brasher's Godly Women: Fundamentalism and Female Power and Jeanette Rodriguez's Our Lady of Guadalupe: Faith and Empowerment Among Mexican-American Women, in order to illustrate the inadequacies of rational choice theory in describing the religious experiences of marginalized women. I claim that rational choice theory does not articulate the relationships of power implicit within gender, does not describe embodied experience, and denies the cultural embeddedness of religion. I attribute the prominence of rational choice theory to a Protestant bias in the field of religious studies. The dominance of Protestant perspectives within the field of religious studies has mandated what can be considered religious, solidified institutional power, contributed to the marginalization of the oppressed, and rendered problematic the agency of many persons whose religious practices do not fit the Protestant mold. In an effort to transform the field of religious studies, in this thesis, I emphasize the importance of alternate readings of women's experience. Theories like rational choice that stress belief and focus on the individual's religious experience uncritically impose limiting religious ideology upon female subjects. Rather than rely on rational choice theory, researchers need to pursue alternate explanations that demonstrate how women negotiate agency in their religious lives, resisting oppressive ideology and repressive religious practices.

Year of Submission


Year of Award

2008 Award

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Philosophy and World Religions

First Advisor

Martha Reineke, Chair, Thesis Committee


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (v, 136 pages)



File Format


Included in

Christianity Commons