• Re-examining the Master's Tools: Considerations on Biblical Studies' Race Problem

    Wei Hsien Wan (see profile)
    Katherine Hockey, David Horrell
    Bible, Biblical interpretation, Imperialism, Race relations--Study and teaching, Ethnology--Study and teaching, Critical theory, Europe, History, Hermeneutics, Race, Ethnicity
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Audre Lorde, Race and Religion, Biblical studies, Colonialism, Critical race and ethnic studies, European history, Race/ethnicity
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    Audre Lorde is famously known to have remarked with respect to the feminist struggle: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. While recent decades have seen the rise of approaches that may genuinely be regarded as new in Biblical Studies (postcolonial, feminist, and queer readings among them), these continue for the most part to be regarded as distinct “criticisms” in their own right, operating in parallel with—and in relative isolation from—the far more dominant (and traditional) historical-critical and literary methods. Should we think of these newer approaches simply as additional tools that yield a more robust future for the discipline, or does their presence demand something more? This paper explores what it means to take seriously the origins of modern Biblical Studies in the historical and political context of Europe’s rise to colonial domination, in which “race” was a fundamental category of social knowledge. It also asks how this Eurocentrism continues to regulate developments in the discipline today. I argue that the more recent and more marginalized ways of reading biblical texts must strive for full-scale renovation of “the master’s house” (which they are ultimately incapable of dismantling), beginning with exposing—and challenging—the discipline’s situatedness in European ways of knowing. This, I suggest, is ultimately not about methodological inclusivity; it is, rather, a matter of ethical commitment to the other.
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    Last Updated:
    5 years ago
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