The Bible & Critical Theory Seminar, now in its thirteenth year, finally made it down to the “the great nerve centre of innovative biblical studies in New Zealand”, Dunedin. The Seminar provided two days worth of critical theorizing and jolly camaraderie, culminating in a potentially dangerous moment when a number of us were exposed to The Bog Irish Bar’s seductively smooth Espresso Martinis.
The Seminar featured a solid core of New Zealanders and Aussies, with a couple of Kiwi expats flying in from overseas (including Stephanie Fisher from Nottingham) and one fellow from Durham, U.K. who is temporarily residing in Dunedin (John Barclay):
Conversation was lively most of the time, although the normally scintillating Roland Boer (Stalin’s Moustache) sent one particular person to sleep:
The staff at The Bog provided some very good drinks and food for lunches and dinners, despite their clear suspicion that we were all completely crazy. James Harding was particularly pleased to find the menu offered congealed blood pudding and liver – always a tasty treat. On Sunday afternoon, John Barclay was astounded to observe Roland Boer, seated at the other side of the table from him, sinking half a dozen beers and still asking coherent questions of the speakers. However, as it transpired, it was alcohol-free beer. The most rapturous applause came during James Harding’s paper, as the Americans gathered in the floor below to watch the Superbowl, suddenly got excited about something. Or perhaps it was just a particularly egregious abherent decoding of some aspect of James’ paper. The papers of course, featured a variety of critical approaches and biblical subjects. Judith McKinlay treated us to her distinguished style of biblical criticism, a genre which is widely known in New Zealand and Australia as “McKinlayic Readings”TM.
Yael Klangwisan provided a revolutionary mimetic approach to the Song of Songs, if not to biblical criticism as a whole, opening up the biblical text for a discursive relationship with the reader:
Remy Low (of Artisans of a New Humanity fame) made the radical suggestion that the textual gap which makes meaning possible also makes politics possible, drawing on Stuart Hall, Antonio Gramsci, and Michel Foucault to show how the submitting slaves of 1 Peter could offer resistance to text and political situation alike.
This was the second B&CT Seminar I had attended, and once again it provided a stimulating and refreshing mix of experimental approaches to biblical texts. Even better, it was a great opportunity to meet and converse with some new and some more familiar folk. Some interesting discussions were had concerning the future of university humanities departments – and ways to overturn the existing system – and were interspersed by many more light and even rude conversations. The suggestion was made that the Seminar be held in New Zealand every couple of years or so, and that it would perhaps head to Brisbane next year.