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European Electronic Journal for Feminist Exegesis

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Susanne Scholz, Valerie Bridgeman, Dorothea Erbele-Küster, Susan E. Haddox, Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Angela N. Parker and Karri L. Whipple, Yael Shemesh, Davina C. Lopez

Cultivating Womanist, Feminist and Queer Relationships in this Neoliberal-Authoritarian Age. A Panel Discussion at the SBL Annual Meeting 2019 in San Diego

 

Abstract:

Die folgenden Beiträge entstammen einer Diskussionsrunde, die während des jährlichen Kongresses der Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) im November 2019 stattfand. Von den ursprünglich zwölf vorgetragenen Beiträgen werden im Folgenden acht leicht veränderte Beiträge veröffentlicht, um den Gesprächsstand einer größeren Öffentlichkeit zugänglich zu machen. Es geht um einen ersten Schritt der intellektuellen Zusammenarbeit unterschiedlich situierter feministischer, womanistischer und gender-queerer Bibelwissenschaftlerinnen in neoliberal-autoritären Zeiten. Die Wissenschaftlerinnen überlegen gemeinsam, was es heute bedeutet, die Bibel wissenschaftlich zu bearbeiten und trotz wichtiger Unterschiede und Differenzen gemeinsame Perspektiven des Widerstandes aufzubauen.


Introduction

During two anniversary panels in honor of the feminist Bible scholar, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, taking place during the annual meeting of the SBL in Denver in November 2018, the honoree emphasized in her response to the panel speakers that progressive movements succeed only in this neoliberal-authoritarian age if progressive groups and organizations build strong coalitions among themselves. Her insight encouraged me to organize a panel based on this idea for the following year’s annual meeting of the SBL. I decided to invite womanist, feminist, queer, and gender studies scholars in biblical studies to cultivate our respective relationships because time was of the essence and the neoliberal-authoritarian age would not end any time soon. In my view, the panel that I planned in December 2018 and January 2019 ought to be only the beginning of building intellectual and scholarly coalitions among progressive scholars. The following panel consists of biblical scholars whose research focuses on gender and sexuality in various intersectional dimensions. 

Since the SBL sections “Feminist Hermeneutics of the Bible” and “Women in the Biblical World” were immediately willing to co-sponsor this panel session, panelists had to be invited. The task turned out to be relatively easy. Most invited colleagues responded to my emailed invitation without any delays, appreciating the idea to talk with each other in light of our dire socio-political, economic, and cultural-religious situations. In my email I had explained that the panel aimed to cultivate conversation, dialog, and even contestation. The goal was to collaborate while not to ignore our differences. I also explained that we might even discover that our differences strengthen our coalition building and our collaborative efforts to resist collectively neoliberal, authoritarian counterforces. We might also learn that our divergent voices help us to address productively past grievances and to build a just present and future in collaborative ways. Since the panel aimed to include a wide range of voices and perspectives, I asked the panelists to address three or four major issues that each panelist considers as central to their particular scholarly perspective in response to the overarching topic. 

Very quickly, a panel of twelve speakers came into being. When the SBL Program Book appeared, the panel was advertised in this way:

 


Women in the Biblical World / Feminist Hermeneutics of the Bible
Joint Session With: Women in the Biblical World, Feminist Hermeneutics of the Bible

Theme: Cultivating Womanist, Feminist, and Queer Relationships in this Neoliberal-Authoritarian Age
Organized by Susanne Scholz, SMU Perkins School of Theology

Susanne Scholz, Southern Methodist University, Presiding
Valerie Bridgeman, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, Panelist
Dorothea Erbele-Kuester, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Panelist
Susan Haddox, University of Mount Union, Panelist
Lynn Huber, Elon University, Panelist
Cheryl Kirk-Duggan, Shaw University Divinity School, Panelist
Angela Parker, Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Panelist
Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College, Panelist
Karri Whipple, New York University Liberal Studies, Panelist
Gay Byron, Howard University, Panelist
Yael Shemesh, Bar-Ilan University, Panelist
Davina Lopez, Eckerd College, Respondent
Fiona Black, Mount Allison University, Respondent

 

Eight panelists followed the call to revise and edit their contributions for publication.  The remaining panelists were unable, for various reasons, to prepare their statements for publication. The following statements offer a glimpse into the various perspectives, insights, and positions that the womanist, feminist, and queer panelists articulated in November 2019. They reflected on the joys and pains of engaging with each other across our differences and disagreements. They reminded us to reach out to other colleagues whose research and teaching practices not only touch on gender and sexuality but also contest neoliberal-authoritarian power dynamics in the field, in educational institutions, and in places where the Bible is read today.

How, why, and for what purposes we read biblical texts and their interpretation histories are always important considerations, whether we read as womanist, feminist, queer, or whatever scholar of whatever biblical canon. That the neoliberal-authoritarian age forces many of us to the margins of public discourse is not entirely new or surprising. Yet the crucial question is how to confront the silencing effects of the right-wing agenda playing out in many places around the world. Schüssler Fiorenza’s reminder that progressive scholars need to build coalitions across our differences and disagreements is thus crucial to consider. This panel wants to begin the coalition building; another panel, focused on pedagogy, is scheduled to take place in November 2021. The opportunities to keep conversing with each other are thus still abundant. The following statements encourage people to join the conversation and to find ways to engage in similar collaborative projects. Building intellectual communities in biblical studies and beyond seems more important than in a long time, as “sheltering in place” and “stay at home” policies are implemented in cities, states, and countries across the globe during the current coronavirus pandemic.


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Susanne Scholz, Ph.D., is Professor of Old Testament at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, USA. Her research focuses on feminist biblical hermeneutics, the epistemologies and sociologies of biblical interpretation, cultural and literary methodologies, biblical historiography and translation theories, interfaith and interreligious dialogue, as well as general issues related to women, gender, and sexuality studies in religion. Among her fourteen books and over sixty essays and journal articles are The Bible as Political Artifact: On the Feminist Study of the Hebrew Bible (Fortress Press, 2017) and Introducing the Women’s Hebrew Bible: Feminism, Gender Justice, and the Study of the Old Testament (second rev. and exp. edn; T&T Clark Bloomsbury, 2017), Feminist Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible in Retrospect: Method (Volume 3) (editor; Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2016), and La Violencia and the Hebrew Bible: Politics and Histories of Biblical Hermeneutics on the American Continent (co-editor; SBL Press, 2016). She also is the editor of the book series Feminist Studies and Sacred Texts (Lexington Books).
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© Susanne Scholz, 2020, lectio@theol.unibe.ch, ISSN 1661-3317

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