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What a programme!! Sad Marxist biblical scholarship, Monstrous Christs, Irrupting Badiouan Events, Hysterical Women, Cosmic Gnostic Spaces, KRuddy Christian Nazis, Emancipatory Submission, Postcolonial Daughters of Zelophehad, Jesus’ Queer Disciples, Matthaean Timespace, Žižek Getting Violent with Job, an Irigarayan reading of the Song of Songs, and David and Jonathan’s openings. All washed down with a few local Dunedin brews.   

The Bog

The Bible & Critical Theory Seminar
February 7-8, 2010
The Bog, Cnr George and London Streets
Dunedin, New Zealand

February 7, 2010

0930-1015       Roland Boer, University of Newcastle, NSW
The sadness of Friedrich Engels

Focusing on the early letters of Friedrich Engels, this article explores a little known but exceedingly important aspect of his life: his deep and heart-rending struggle as he gradually lost his Reformed (Calvinist) faith. The issues that confront the young Engels concern the Bible, especially its contradictions (with a focus on biblical genealogies), the relation between reason and faith, and the issue of reading the Bible properly. Engels was a self-taught biblical scholar, but a strikingly informed one. He kept up with the rapidly developing historical critical study of the Bible (newly established in Germany at the time), current issues in philosophy and theology, and he was able to read the New Testament in Greek. We find him debating all these issues with his close friends, Friedrich and Wilhelm Graeber, who were to become pastors in the German Evangelical Church. As he does so he continually shifts positions until he reluctantly gives up his faith. Eventually he would come to terms with his Christian background, offering striking analyses of the revolutionary origins of Christianity.

 1015-1100       Eric Repphun, University of Otago
The Monstrous Cinematic Christ: Biblical Narrative as ‘Supplement’ or ‘Multiple Opposite’?

This will be a study of Last Temptation of Christ and The Passion of the Christ and the way both use source material (including the Gospel narratives), all in light of the Zizek/Milbank debate in The Monstrosity of Christ.


1130-1215       John Barclay, University of Durham, UK
Paul and Alain Badiou

This paper discusses the reading of Paul offered by the contemporary French philosopher, Alain Badiou.  Badiou’s emphasis on event and unconditioned grace is supported by readings from Galatians, such that his philosophical notion of ‘event’, with its militant and universal effects, may claim real consonance with Paul.  However, Paul’s strong notions of divine creation from nothing, and of the benevolence of the Christ event, require that God be reinserted into Paul’s theology, while Badiou’s focus on the resurrection, rather than the cross, misses the social radicalism latent in Paul.

Lunch at The Bog
Menu: http://www.thebog.co.nz/dunedin/menu_breakfast.html

1300-1345       Christina Petterson, Macquarie University, NSW
Spirit and Matter in John

German feminist and cultural theorist Christina von Braun’s work on hysteria and logos from 1985 contains a fascinating chapter on writing, patriarchy, spirit and matter, which draws heavily on John’s word made flesh to argue for the ‘logical’ outcome of the abstraction process of Western philosophy. In this paper, I want to present and explore this argument, bringing it into discussion with a recent PhD dissertation in Biblical Exegesis on the stoic pneuma in John in order to look at the negotiation of matter in the gospel narrative.

1345-1430       Majella Franzmann, University of Otago
Personal and Cosmic Spaces of Salvation in James and Gospel of Judas in Codex Tchachos

In this paper, I provide a study of the characters of James and Judas in James and Gos. Judas in Codex Tchacos by investigating some personal and cosmic spaces in which the characters move, which they influence, and which produce certain effects upon them in return. I use critical spatiality as a means of studying the spaces inhabited by James and Judas, the spaces between them and other characters, especially Jesus, and the cosmic spaces that they must enter and/or cross on their journey to insight and perfection to attain the heavenly home they are seeking.


1500-1545       Holly Randell-Moon, University of Newcastle, NSW
Left or Right? Religion and politics in Australia under the Howard and Rudd governments

A number of scholars, such as Ghassan Hage and David Harvey, have argued that conservative nationalisms often emerge as responses to the alienating effects of neoliberal economic policies. In my previous work, I have argued that the former Howard government’s (1996-2007) promotion of “Christian values” in its public policy and rhetoric can be understood as an attempt to reconcile, or compensate for, the individualising effects of neoliberal economic policy. In this paper, I will compare the Rudd government’s use of a social justice view of Christianity and national culture to shift economic policy away from neoliberalism. However, the Rudd government’s differentiation of its own policies as socially based, in contrast to the non-interventionist and individualist policies under Howard, takes at face value neoliberalism’s claim to limited governance and indifference to social relations. There can be no real engagement with the political effects of neoliberal policies if neoliberalism is simply understood as supporting a neutral conception of the individual or economy. For this reason, I question whether the emergence of a progressive Christian nationalism significantly changes the way neoliberal policies are conceptualised and implemented.

 1545-1630       Remy Low, University of Sydney, NSW
Submission in the War of Position:  Towards a Neo-Gramscian Reading of 1 Peter 2:18-21

There have been endless skirmishes over the New Testament’s injunctions to submission (or ‘to subject’; Gk: hupotasso) in the realm of Biblical studies and ethics. In this paper, I engage in a close reading of one particular usage of the term in 1 Peter 2: 18-21 from the rubric of a neo-Gramscian theory of hegemony. Drawing on the work of Gramsci, Gadamer, Laclau and Unger, I argue that the mobilisation of the term has to be understood as a military metaphor mobilized within a specific spatiotemporal context: i.e. for the purpose of presenting an exterior semblance of ‘normality’ in a hostile situation while actively anticipating total liberation with the apokálypsis of the Kingdom of God. I propose that the exhortation to ‘be subject’, far from being an essentially oppressive and/or conservative ethico-political signifier to be at best avoided, can be re-articulated strategically for the purposes of emancipatory struggle in multiple sociocultural spheres.

Drinks and dinner at The Bog
The Bog has live music from 2000 on Sundays


February 8, 2010

0930-1015       Judith McKinlay, University of Otago
The Daughters of Zelophehad hanging out with Edward Gibbon Wakefield: What am I doing with them?

This paper endeavours to introduce a postcolonial reading of the texts concerning Zelophehad daughters alongside a consideration of the settlement of Post Nicholson by the New Zealand Company, and the issues such a reading raises.


Robert J. Myles, University of Auckland
Dandy discipleship: A queering of Mark’s male disciples

This paper involves a re-reading of a selection of texts from the Gospel of Mark employing the socio-rhetorical method combined with queer and gender criticism as informed by the works of Judith Butler, Marcella Althaus-Reid, and Dale B. Martin. Particular attention is given to the ways in which the gender and sexuality of the male disciples has been constructed in both the world behind the text and the world in front of the text. The paper examines how the masculinity of the disciples is performed by placing the texts in dialogue with dominant discourses from the ancient Mediterranean context. While conventional readings unambiguously presume the normativity of heterosexuality and binary categories of gender, this paper challenges such modern assumptions by purposefully and strategically reading the texts sexually. In the process of applying a provocative queer imagination, underlying components of erotophobia and homophobia within conventional hermeneutical filters are also exposed.


1130-1215       Elaine Wainwright, University of Auckland
From Wilderness to Waterfront: The Play of Time and Space in an Ecological Reading of Matt 3-4

One aspect of the ecological reading process that I am developing is the intertextuality that lies ‘in front of’ the text. This paper will dialogue with emerging theories of time and space/place or Time/Space as May and Thrift call it and how these might inform an ecological reading of selected segments of Matt 3-4.

Lunch at The Bog

1300-1345 Kirsten Dawson, University of Otago
Systemic violence in Job 1-2

Using Žižek’s threefold schema of “subjective”, “systemic” and “symbolic” violence, I will examine the violence apparent in the prologue of the book of Job. While the subjective violence that befalls Job is well-recognised, this paper will investigate the systemic violence in which the prosperous Job is enmeshed, and will suggest some of the implications that these observations might have for interpreting violence in the book as a whole.

1345-1430       Yael Klangwisan, Laidlaw College, Auckland
The Marine Lover & the Song of Songs

In the Marine Lover of Friedrich Nietzsche Luce Irigaray formulates a poetic way of reading and critiquing Nietzsche’s Thus spoke Zarathustra. In the Marine Lover, Irigaray enacts her metaphor of water and its relationship to the feminine while simultaneously creating a Nietzschean persona with which to engage face to face. This aesthetic, homeopathic and poetic form of interrogation enables Irigaray to envelope herself around Nietzsche’s words, washing against and permeating the weaknesses in his claims resulting in a particularly triumphant and brilliantly subtle riposte. Irigaray’s way of reading (in the Marine Lover) provides possibilities for reading the Song of Songs, especially in her use of poetic forms, her treatment of the text as “person” and thus the potential for face to face encounter and lithe dialogue with a biblical text that is notoriously evasive.


1500-1545       James Harding, University of Otago
The David and Jonathan narrative(s) as open text

This paper attempts to move beyond approaches to the David and Jonathan narrative that try to circumscribe the meaning of the text through appeal to word statistics (cf. Zehnder 1998; 2007; critiqued by me at last year’s B&CT seminar) by focusing on the relationship between the constraints of the text, that is the “linear text manifestation,” and the intentions of its readers. Based primarily on Jonathan Culler’s work on the semiotics of reading (Culler 1981) and Umberto Eco’s on the limits of interpretation (Eco 1990), this paper seeks to determine what elements in the text and what interpretive conventions enable the David and Jonathan narrative to produce meaning. My case is that the narrative, which itself is made up of at least two redactional layers, is an “open text” (Eco 1962; 1979) that has been artificially “closed” by the construction of a biblical canon and the imposition of a closed range of interpretive conventions. It is only this move that has made it possible to delimit the work’s meaning by appeal to Lev 18:22; 20:13 (e.g. Gagnon 2001; Zehnder 1998; 2007; etc.) or to the completion of the Old Testament in the new (e.g. Vischer 1946).

Drinks at The Bog


Transport and Accommodation details

Registration: email either James Harding (james.harding(at)stonebow.otago.ac.nz) or Roland Boer (roland.t.boer(at)gmail.com) and let them know that you’re coming.

Moana’s paper was sadly cancelled:

Moana Hall-Smith, St John’s College, Auckland/University of Otago
Divine colonization in the Book of Judges: A Maori woman’s ecological reading of Judges 19

This paper is exploratory. As part of a larger project, I am working towards developing a paradigm[s] for reading the biblical text and in particular Judges 19 ecologically. In this paper I propose to use a Māori woman’s postcolonial lens and a Kaupapa Māori framework to foster a new ecological -feminist reading of Judges 19 as a way of liberating the text from its colonizing and patriarchal orientation. I will draw on the issues of land exploitation, patriarchy, gender inequality and colonial dominance to qualify that a Māori eco-feminism is integral to postcolonial thinking. From this dialogue I will draw on Māori conceptual lenses for reading which might guide an ecological reading of Judges 19. Within the confines of this paper a detailed reading will not be possible but simply the proposing of a Kaupapa Māori framework for more indepth interpretation. I will investigate the pilegesh; as the “other” to men; “other” to the sons of Israel; “other” to the non-human and “other” to the divine through a number of Māori conceptual tools. Firstly,  whakapapa which is the systematic and orderly record of human, cosmic and primordial causes and effects. It is based on a genealogical and spiritual relationship to the universe; to the landscape and to stones, rocks and other things seen and unseen, therefore, an association between the female body and the land is invoked and the woman’s decapitated body portrays the ordering of the cosmos; death – death – new life. Secondly, whenua translates both land and womb that are symbolically connected by the birthing cord. Thus the woman’s dismembered body has a strong umbilical attachment to all the lands in Israel. Whenua also provides the interpretive tool that demonstrates the abuse and violation of land was/is intrinsically linked to the abuse and violation of women. Wheiao another conceptual tool, is the liminal space situated between the life and death; the realm of the divine “other”. The battered woman is in this place when she is cut into twelve pieces and sent throughout the territory of Israel. By using Māori conceptual and postcolonial interpretation lenses, I will try to offer a new way of reading the biblical text that challenges those who insist on interpreting through Biblical historical scholarship. This paper’s particular concern will be how attentiveness to the “other” in the text while highlighting the interconnectedness of the land and its community may bring new questions to the interpretation of Judges 19.