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Unconventional Sisterhood 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. And, 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.

For many of the sisters, the vocation itself represents a radical choice given strong cultural (and often specifically paternal) pressures to instead embrace wifehood, motherhood, and domestic/familial responsibility. The congregation not only affords an alternative vocational option for activist Filipinas, but also evidences a strong (and constitutionally mandated) concern with national women's issues. While--significantly--the sisters do not all identify themselves as "feminists," all are committed to the revision of mainstream Philippine gender norms.

Claussen's work not only represent an important addition to scholarship on Philippine feminism, it also speaks to a lack of specifically ethnographic work focused on consciously 'feminist' collectives. Unconventional Sisterhood is one of only a few ethnographies focused on female monasticism--of particular cultural importance in the Christian Philippines, wherein nuns enjoy both 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 under-studied environment.