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CALL FOR PAPERS – Special Journal Issue: Activism in the Biblical Studies Classroom: Global Perspectives

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Call for papers: Special Edition of the Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (JIBS)

Activism in the Biblical Studies Classroom: Global Perspectives

Does activism belong in the university Biblical Studies classroom? If yes, with what purpose, outcome or agenda? Which teaching strategies are effective? How can/should/might Biblical Studies and activism engage with each other?

Activism is understood here as relating to human rights and the abolition of discrimination, including discrimination and activism in relation to:

Race and ethnicity
Gender and gender identity
Sexual orientation
Class
Disability and ableism
HIV status
Mental health
Religion, faith and belief
Fat stigma
Ageism
Motherhood and pregnancy
Voluntary/involuntary childlessness
Abortion and abortion stigma

This list is indicative and not exhaustive. We welcome submissions on any area of activism in conjunction with any biblical text.

We are looking for practice-focused contributions informed by academic research and/or theory.

Submissions should be between 4000 and 10,000 words.

All submissions will be subject to the usual blind peer review process.

Send proposals to Guest Editor Johanna Stiebert (j.stiebert@leeds.ac.uk) by 31 March 2019 and completed papers by the 2 January 2020.

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Outlander Soul Podcast: Sexual Violence in Outlander (discussion with Emma Nagouse)

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Outlander Soul continues part 2 of their conversation with Emma Nagouse, whose research at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at the University of Sheffield (UK) focuses on religion and sexual violence. In this episode, Emma and Jayme Reaves discuss Christ imagery and suffering, the Geneva & Laoghaire question, Fergus, and sexual violence as depicted in Outlander more generally.

(An obvious trigger warning that there will be discussion of rape, sexual violence, and rape culture in this episode).

 

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UN 16 Days of Activism – Day 2: Heather McKay

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Today’s activist is Heather McKay.

Tell us about yourself! Who are you and what do you do?

I am Professor Heather A. McKay (née Ayre), MSc, BD, PhD, FHEA.

In education, I am a product of an all-female grammar school in Glasgow where we were taught that we could easily achieve what males achieve. Then I studied at Glasgow University and earned two Science degrees (BSc and MSc) as a young woman and, as a mature woman, two degrees in Biblical Studies (BD and PhD inDivinity). In between I was a horse rider for leisure and a hospital laboratory worker and researcher, a mother and a National Childbirth Trust Breast-feeding Counsellor and Teacher of Antenatal Preparation classes, both of the lattermost for several years in Glasgow, and then, Sheffield. In the late sixties, I worked as a schoolteacher in Ely (Cambridgeshire) and, later, in Glasgow, sandwiching four years as a lecturer in Biological Sciences at Napier University, Edinburgh. After gaining my Bachelor of Divinity, I worked as a student minister for a year then became a schoolteacher again, this time in Religious Studies and Religious Education. After a few more years in schools and John Leggott Sixth Form College in Scunthorpe, I became Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Edge Hill University, Lancashire and worked there till my retirement having been granted a personal chair meanwhile. I particularly enjoyed, there, teaching the Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education for new lecturers at Edge Hill.

My second husband is David Clines, of much Biblical Studies fame, and my younger son, Dr Robert McKay, is Senior Lecturer in English Literature (also at Sheffield University), specializing in Animal Studies. My older son, Kevin McKay, works in the music industry in London.

How do you think the Shiloh Project’s work on religion and rape culture can add to and enrich discussion and action on the topic of gender activism today? Is there more we can do? What else should we post?

I think that the Shiloh Project makes a vital contribution. I believe that any young women nowadays delude themselves that the feminist battles have been won. I believe that most of women’s gains in bodily freedom and mobility and time at their own disposal have been gained by scientific advances, namely, the provision of simple and easy sanitary protection and choices of contraception. Both give women greater control and offer options that women may make for themselves. But the idea that men have ceded 50% of their power of the public spheres of action to women is risible. But then, it must be a daunting prospect to reduce one’s power in life to a half; only the very best of men seem to be capable of embracing that idea wholeheartedly. Hence the clear, unambiguous focus provided by the Shiloh Project cuts through the doublespeak that sugarcoats many unpleasant ‘pills’ of women’s life in the public sphere. The Shiloh Project must use its cutting edge to show women where their key vulnerabilities lie both here in the UK and globally.

In the year ahead, how will you contribute to advancing the aims and goals of The Shiloh Project?  

It is hard to be specific but, as you can see from my thoughts outlined above, these issues are always at the forefront of my mind. Memories well up of antenatal classes where the fathers were sometimes unwilling to massage their wives backs and/or bellies in the particular different ways that would alleviate their aches and pains, then, the transforming joy on their faces as their actions produced those relaxed sighs as pain receded and their partners’ faces melted into a gentle smile and look of love. I wish that change to happen also to the pains of the workplace and of other public spheres where partnership enriches rather than undercuts the common project.

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UN 16 Days of Activism – Day 1: Professor David J.A. Clines

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Activism comes in many guises. Today’s activist is Professor David J. A. Clines. David is one of the giants of biblical studies. He is one of the foremost scholars of the study of Biblical Hebrew, Greek and Latin, and is thoroughly adept in very many of the approaches to biblical criticism, as well as stunningly knowledgeable about the long history of biblical interpretation. Again and again, David has found new, innovative and sometimes provocative ways to shed light on biblical texts. His voice is singular and significant – in biblical scholarship and well beyond, for all willing to think critically and responsibly about the texts of the Bible and the contexts in which these texts emerged and exerted influence. David has also been a mentor to many scholars and students, which includes several members of the Shiloh Project. 

1. I am David Clines and am still Professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Sheffield, despite retirement 15 years ago. I am an Australian, who left home for further study in Cambridge, after completing my first degree in Sydney. I have taught in Sheffield for all of my career. My research focus throughout has been on the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), its language, interpretation and especially its ideological commitments (which are often obscured or unacknowledged).

My Shiloh-type interests include: many papers aimed at uncovering the (mostly unnoticed) masculinity of the Bible (e.g. ‘The Scandal of a Male Bible’, The Ethel M. Wood Lecture for 2015, available here), and, recently, my publications profiling violence in the Hebrew Bible. My linguistic study reveals that there are, on average, 7 instances of or references to violence on every page of the Hebrew Bible. I maintain that this includes references to  ‘marriage’ (because marriage strikes me as always an act of violence in the ancient cultures reflected in biblical texts) and ‘circumcision’ (which I regard as constituting male genital mutilation).

2. My main future contribution to the aims of the Shiloh Project will be in my capacity as director of Sheffield Phoenix Press: SPP will publish both monographs and collections of essays by numerous people involved in this important project.

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Outlander Soul Podcast: Season 2 Episode 3: Jamie & The Man of Sorrows (Sexual Violence in Outlander Part 1)

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Over the next two episodes, the Outlander Soul podcast welcomes Emma Nagouse, whose research at the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at the University of Sheffield (UK) focuses on religion and sexual violence.

For Part 1 of this series on sexual violence in the popular TV series Outlander, Emma and Jayme Reaves discuss Emma’s research on Jamie Fraser and the Man of Sorrows, a character in Lamentations 3 in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, and the implications of male rape as depicted in biblical texts and in Outlander.

Read more on Emma’s Outlander Research here.

(An obvious trigger warning that we will be talking about rape, sexual violence, and rape culture in this episode).

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The Religion and Rape Culture Conference: A Summary

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The first Religion and Rape Culture conference was a huge success. We welcomed over 50 delegates from 6 countries and were treated to 14 fantastic research papers from a range of academics, research students, practitioners, artists, activists, and members of religious groups. The aim of the day was to explore the many intersections between religion and rape culture, and how religion can both participate in and contest rape culture discourses and practices.

Click here to see videos of our research talks

The conference opened with a powerful keynote address entitled “Rape by any other name: Cross-examining biblical evidence“ from Professor Cheryl Exum (Emeritus Professor, University of Sheffield). Professor Exum presented delegates with a survey of rapes in the bible, and demonstrated in her talk the ways in which commentators often work overtime to elide this violence. Professor Exum ended her address with a challenge to biblical scholars to make rape a visible issue in the discipline. Professor Exum continues to be an inspiration to staff and students in Biblical Studies, and is responsible for carving out a space for Sheffield as a leading place for feminist biblical interpretation.

After a short break, our first panel convened who explored “Biblical Perspectives” of rape culture discourses. This panel, chaired by Dr Johanna Stiebert, was well received, with thought-provoking papers from a variety of disciplines:

Lily Clifford (Inclusive Arts MA, University of Brighton) & Emma Nagouse (PhD Candidate, University of Sheffield): How to make a ghost: A collaborative approach to finding Dinah

Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar (PhD Candidate, Drew University):  For such a time as this? #UsToo: Representations of sexual trafficking, collective trauma, and horror in the book of Esther

Rabbi Dr Deborah Kahn-Harris (Principal, Leo Baeck College): This may not be a love story: Ruth, rape, and the limits of readings strategies

Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar discussing her research with a delegate.

As well as presenting on this panel, we were thrilled to welcome Lily Clifford from the University of Brighton as an artist in residence for the conference, who crafted creative responses to each of the presentations as they unfolded. We were delighted that this was received so warmly by delegates and our presenters – who were each able to keep their artwork.

Lily working during the conference

Our next panel,  “Theology and Thought” was chaired by Dr Valerie Hobbs and included papers which explored some of the ways in which Christian discourses and ideologies have engaged with rape culture, both historically and in contemporary contexts. These were fantastic papers, and while some of this content was challenging to listen to, they served to bring focus to how important and timely this research is.

Natalie Collins (Gender Justice Specialist, SPARK):  The Evil Sirens: Evangelical Christian culture, pornography and the perpetuation of rape culture

Claire Cunnington (PhD Candidate, University of Sheffield): “My prayers weren’t being answered”: The intersection of religion and recovery from childhood sexual abuse

Rhian Elinor Keyse (PhD Candidate, University of Exeter): “A man cannot in law be convicted of rape upon his own wife”: Custom, Christianity, colonialism, and sexual consent in forced marriage cases, British colonial Africa, 1932–1945

Rhian Elinor Keyse and Lily (conference artist) discussing Lily’s artistic response to Rhian’s research paper

After (a delicious) lunch, we picked things up again with our “Method, Critique and Discourse” panel chaired by Dr Meredith Warren. This was an interdisciplinary panel which explored the various ways rape culture is expressed politically by both oppressors, and those who seek to resist it. This was a fascinating session that inspired a lively panel discussion.

Kathryn Barber (PhD Candidate, University of Cardiff): “Rape is a liberal disease”: An analysis of alternative rape culture perpetuated by far-right extremists online

Dr Rachel Starr (Director of Studies: UG programmes, The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Research): Research as resistance: Survival strategies for researching violence

Professor Daphne Hampson (Associate of the Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford): Religion as gender politics

Questions being taken by the Method, Critique and Discourse panel
A rapt audience listening to Dr Rachel Starr’s presentation on “Research as resistance: Survival strategies for researching violence”

Our final panel, “Media and Culture” was chaired by Dr Naomi Hetherington and included papers which explored how rape and rape culture discourses are presented in literature and artistic contexts. We couldn’t have hoped for more engaging talks to round off the day’s panel discussions.

Mary Going (PhD Candiate, University of Sheffield): Mother Zion, Daughter Zion, Witch Zion: An exploration of Scott’s Rebecca

Dr Miryam Sivan (Lecturer, University of Haifa): Negotiating the silence: Sexual violence in Israeli Holocaust fiction

Dr Zanne Domoney-Lyttle (Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Glasgow): The Handmaid’s Jail: Framing sexual assault and rape narratives in biblical comics

The Religion and Rape Culture Conference was closed by a fantastic keynote address from Associate Professor Rhiannon Graybill (Rhodes College) entitled “Fuzzy, messy, icky: The edges of consent in biblical rape narratives and rape culture”. Graybill’s research brought feminist literature problematising the notion of consent to bear on biblical stories of sexual violence and rape, as well as the ways in which we as feminists read and respond to those stories. Graybill asked what a serious critique of consent means to a feminist biblical hermeneutic of sexual violence, and in response,  explored how feminists might engage with these texts beyond the position of mourning or recovering. We were thrilled to host Professor Graybill, and her insightful research has continued to be a point of discussion since the conference. We’re so excited to continue to work with Professor Graybill through The Shiloh Project.

After a break, there was a drinks reception where everyone was invited to view our research posters. Authors who were in attendance were invited to speak for one minute about their poster. Topics included: Consenting Adults? Faith formation’s less-than-immaculate conception of consent (Catherine Kennedy, University of Sheffield); Preaching Texts of Horror: How Christian Pastors teach about Dinah, the Levite’s Concubine, Tamar, and Potiphar’s Wife (Dr Valerie Hobbs, University of Sheffield); A Climate of Taboo: Trauma and the graphic novel Blankets (Hugo Ljungbäck, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee); Veils and ventriloquists: How do creative interpretations depict narratives of trauma for those who remain voiceless? (Lily Clifford, University of Brighton); “Life made no sense without a beating”: Religion and rape culture in US Girls’ In a Poem Unlimited (Liam Ball, University of Sheffield), and The girl needs some monster in her man: Rape Culture, cis-male allyship and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Ashley Darrow, Manchester Metropolitan University and Emma Nagouse, University of Sheffield).

What kept coming up in discussion was pedagogical questions on how these challenging topics should be taught in educational settings such as universities and colleges, but also in religious settings. It became clear that academics, teachers, practitioners, and activists alike all craved more tools when it comes to how to teach, research, and facilitate discussions around these urgent and important issues. Perhaps a topic for a future conference…? You can see some of the online interaction from the conference by searching for #ShilohConf18 on Twitter.

It was a powerful, energising and galvanising day – and, on a personal note, I was thrilled with the huge amount of interest we received from a cross-section of people from a wide variety of sectors and community groups, and the level of extremely positive and encouraging feedback we received from participants.

We would like to take this opportunity to extend our warmest thanks to WRoCAH for funding this much-needed conference. We look forward to continuing this important work and making the most of the inspiration, networks, and new friends which were made at our first conference.

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Call for papers closed

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The call for papers for our Religion and Rape Culture conference is now closed.

We have had an overwhelming response to this call, and we aim to be back in touch with all who have submitted an abstract by 30th April at the very latest.

You can keep up to date with the conference here on our blog, through Twitter, and by following our conference hashtag #ShilohConf18.

Don’t forget, you can get your ticket for the conference here.

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#HimToo – why Jesus should be recognised as a victim of sexual violence

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Katie Edwards, University of Sheffield and David Tombs

The season of Lent is an invitation to the churches, and to anyone else who wishes to do so, to reflect on the disturbing story of the torture and crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament. It is one of the most widely known and often retold stories in human history. Yet despite being read and remembered so often, there is a part of the story which typically receives little attention and minimal discussion – the stripping of Jesus.

The #MeToo movement has highlighted the prevalence of sexual assault, sexual harassment and other sexual abuses experienced by women and girls in many different forms. It has also exposed the common tendency to deny, dismiss, or minimise the significance and impact of these experiences.

The stripping of Jesus

With this in mind, during this present Lenten period, it seems especially appropriate to recall the stripping of Jesus – and to name it for what it was intended to be: a powerful display of humiliation and gender-based violence, which should be acknowledged as an act of sexual violence and abuse.

The idea that Jesus himself experienced sexual abuse may seem strange or shocking at first, but crucifixion was a “supreme punishment” and the stripping and exposure of victims was not an accidental or incidental element. It was a deliberate action that the Romans used to humiliate and degrade those they wished to punish. It meant that the crucifixion was more than just physical, it was also a devastating emotional and psychological punishment.

The convention in Christian art of covering Christ’s nakedness on the cross with a loincloth is perhaps an understandable response to the intended indignity of Roman crucifixion. But this should not prevent us from recognising that the historical reality would have been very different.

This is not just a matter of correcting the historical record. If Jesus is named as a victim of sexual abuse it could make a huge difference to how the churches engage with movements like #MeToo, and how they promote change in wider society. This could contribute significantly to positive change in many countries, and especially in societies where the majority of people identify as Christian.

Some sceptics might respond that stripping a prisoner might be a form of violence or abuse, but it is misleading to call this “sexual violence” or “sexual abuse”. Yet if the purpose was to humiliate the captive and expose him to mockery by others, and if the stripping is done against his will and as a way to shame him in public, then recognising it as a form of sexual violence or sexual abuse seems entirely justified. The way that the stripping of Vercingetorix, King of the Arverni, is depicted in the first episode of the first series of the HBO series Rome is an example of this.

The scene highlights the vulnerability of the naked prisoner who is stripped and exposed in front of the assembled ranks of hostile Roman soldiers. The power and control of Roman power is contrasted with the vulnerability and forced submission of the prisoner. The scene also hints at the possibility of even greater sexualised violence which might be in store.

Combating Stigma

Jesus’ gender is central to readers’ seeming unwillingness to recognise the sexual abuse to which he is subjected. Analysis of the gendering of nakedness by Margaret R. Miles demonstrates that we view male and female nakedness differently. In biblical art in the Christian West, Miles argues that the naked male body represents glorious athleticism representing spiritual as well as physical suffering.

Sexual abuse doesn’t form part of the narrative of masculinity inherent in representations of Jesus. Naked women, however, are immediately identified as sexual objects. Seeing a woman being forcibly stripped, then, might be more recognisable as sexual abuse than the stripping of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. If Christ was a female figure we wouldn’t hesitate to recognise her ordeal as sexual abuse.

Some present day Christians are still reluctant to accept that Jesus was a victim of sexual violence and seem to consider sexual abuse as an exclusively female experience.

We may not want to dwell on the disturbing indignity of crucifixion for the whole year, but it is not right to forget about it completely either. The sexual abuse of Jesus is a missing part of Passion and Easter story retellings. It’s appropriate to recognise Jesus as a victim of sexual violence to address the continuing stigma for those who’ve experienced sexual abuse, especially men.

Lent offers a period in which this stark reality of crucifixion might be recalled and connected to the important questions that movements like #MeToo are raising for the churches and for wider society. Once we acknowledge the sexual abuse of Jesus perhaps we’ll be more willing to acknowledge sexual abuse in our own contexts.

Katie Edwards, Director SIIBS, University of Sheffield and David Tombs, Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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DEADLINE EXTENSION- call for papers

Shiloh Launch

Many of our members (including our conference organising team) have been on strike over the last month as part of the UCU (University and College Union) industrial action over USS pensions. Over 60 universities in the UK are involved. Members of UCU continue to be on action short of a strike.

We are extending the call for papers deadline for our Religion and Rape Culture conference to 5pm March 29th.

See updated call for papers:

We are thrilled to announce our keynote speakers will be Professor Cheryl Exum and
Professor Rhiannon Graybill.

The Shiloh Project is a joint initiative set up by staff from the Universities of Sheffield, Leeds and Auckland (NZ) researching religion and rape culture. We are proud to announce a one day interdisciplinary conference exploring and showcasing research into the phenomenon of rape culture, both throughout history and within contemporary societies across the globe. In particular, we aim to investigate the complex and at times contentious relationships that exist between rape culture and religion, considering the various ways religion can both participate in and contest rape culture discourses and practices.

We are also interested in the multiple social identities that invariably intersect with rape culture, including gender, disabilities, sexuality, race and class. The Shiloh Project specialises in the field of Biblical Studies, but we also strongly encourage proposals relating to rape culture alongside other religious traditions, and issues relating to rape culture more broadly.

This conference is open to researchers at any level of study, and from any discipline. We invite submissions of abstracts no more than 300 words long and a short bio no later than 5pm March 29th. Please indicate whether your submission is for a poster or a presentation. We particularly welcome abstracts on the following topics:

Gender violence and the Bible
Gender, class and rape culture
Visual representations of biblical gender violence
Representations of rape culture in the media and popular culture
Teaching traumatic texts
Methods of reading for resistance and/or liberation
Sexual violence in schools and Higher Education
Religion, rape culture and the gothic/horror genre
Spiritualities and transphobia
Familial relations and the Bible

For more information, or to submit an abstract, email shiloh@sheffield.ac.uk

@ProjShiloh

This event is supported by AHRC and WRoCAH.

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