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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More on gender and blogging

One reason why some people might not be overly keen on the ways in which some of the discussion (and I have no one in particular in mind here - just some general comments) over gender and biblioblogging is that there is a lot of material written on gender and scholarship which seems to be largely overlooked in the blogging discussions. If this debate is to be taken further, maybe some further interaction with the ways in which privileged liberal scholarship can actually perpetuate certain existing power relations, even if changing the role of previously isolated people within a relatively elite culture. I've alluded to such things before but one book which really deals with such issues in depth and immersed in gender studies is the latest from Caroline Vander Stichele and Todd Penner, Contextualizing Gender in Early Christian Discourse Thinking beyond Thecla (2009). This book has a lot to say on gender, power, intellectuals and the academy (see esp. chapter 4). Here's an extract from pp. 168-69:
One might think here of someone working on Asian Biblical Hermeneutics, or with a feminist agenda, or a queer approach, for in all cases the assumption is that we will have, respectively, an “Asian,” a “female,” and a “gay” or a “queer” person (or at least individuals who are perceived as such by the dominant structure) being the ones promoting the marginalized work. Thus, there is a correlation between the type of nonnormative work undertaken and an essentialized (even as it is otherized) identity. There is often even an overdetermination of the difference of the “other” in this respect (whether that “other” is a specific method or content), while the center appears to lack the cultural, racial, ideological, and so on bases that defines the “other.” Thus, the absence of these facets from the center defines the center of the discipline—here historical studies—as neutral. Moreover, while the “Asian-American” critic or the “female feminist” can point out the perceived ideological nature of the dominant “male” perspective, the normative “male” center—consisting of those who perform as white, heterosexual males—are expected to maintain the fundamental guild structures. And thus the gendered, sexed, and sexual character (but one could add other factors here too, such as race/ethnicity, class, disability) of the guild structure is highly essentialist in its ways of knowing and the methods used...
...biblical scholars too tend to project sexual identity onto the often marginalized Other while de-sexualizing their own standpoint. Again, the “other” here is overdetermined, while the center is represented by absence and lack of specificity. It thus passes as “normative” and consequently its power is masked. Rather than providing challenges to the larger structures of the guild, then, these other perspectives enable the center to solidify its hold. Therefore, alleged political and ethical work undertaken by scholars claiming to be enacting such, in fact, paradoxically sustains hegemony rather than dismantling it as intended. While much is made of the shift in scholarship towards recognizing personal and cultural biases and locations in interpretation of biblical texts, and while these “movements” and shifts in scholarship have touted themselves as a challenge to the hegemonic tradition of “objective” “scientific” analysis, in principle these two seeming polar opposite positions are not in conflict with each other. In a way, the hegemonic male-centered guild, particularly in its current social and cultural context, actually needs this dissent in order to maintain its firm grasp. Thus, for instance, the Society of Biblical Literature has spaces for alternative scholarship (and committees on the status of women in the academy, for instance) but still sustains a male-centered structure. Therefore, the difference that is tolerated does not challenge the phallogocentric and colonial structures of the guild. The illusion of inclusion is essential, particularly in a guild that fully endorses modern liberal discourses of individual freedom and tolerance. Yet, while it is often assumed that the guild has a fractured identity, with say feminist and postcolonial theorists raising ideological questions that seem to be ignored by traditional and conventional scholarship, if we take seriously the structure of the guild as outlined here, then the two spheres are rather working in tandem and sustain a larger normativity related to identity and subjectivity, particularly as those intersect with politics, culture, and society in this period of globalized capitalism (and capitalist globalism).


Blogger Tim Ricchuiti said...

Thanks for posting this, James.

September 09, 2009

Blogger Geoff Hudson said...

Its rubbish.

September 09, 2009

Anonymous steph said...

perhaps it's because I'm Kiwi, but the quote is fairly incomprehensible ... it's interesting to see how it's been interpreted by bloggers.

September 09, 2009

Blogger Justin J. Meggitt said...

Glad you are back blogging James and good to see you are keeping us thinking. I do agree with this though I really wish economics and class would be put into the mix here. There seems virtually no critical, hermeneutical reflection on that these days (unless it is exoticised and subsumed under something else, rather less threatening).

As a well-known apologist for the CPGB, I assume you'll agree ;)

September 11, 2009

Blogger James Crossley said...

Well, trust you to bring class and economics into the mix! Yes, I completely agree Justin. To be fair to TP and CVS they do this (alongside race) throughout their book and very much welcomed. My mention of the liberal nature of a lot of this debate was about this. I am deepy suspicious of such debates because historically things have involved the slight improvement of privileged while masking all the old class issues and giving an air of respectability.

'Though cowards flinch and traitors sneer,
We'll keep the red flag [black flag, surely!] flying here'

September 11, 2009


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