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Booking and CFP for Religion and Rape Culture Conference, 6th July 2018

Booking is now open for our Religion and Rape Culture Conference. Places are limited so book your ticket fast!

Please note that we have small travel bursaries to contribute to travel costs for UK students who wish to attend the conference. These bursaries will be awarded on a needs basis, and speakers/those with poster submissions will also be prioritised.

The deadline for submission of proposals for our Religion and Rape Culture Conference is fast approaching! Get your proposals in by 19th March 2018. See the CFP below for more details.

Email [email protected] for more information.

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Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2018: Interview with Carrie Pemberton Ford (CCARHT)

It’s Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week! This will be followed from 14. February by the One Billion Rising Campaign. Between 14 February and International Women’s Day, on 8 March: look out for regular Shiloh Project updates!

 Today, during Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is a good time for The Shiloh Project to launch the first post of an occasional series profiling NGOs working actively against rape culture in its myriad forms.

 Organizations such as Women’s Shelter and Rape Crisis are very well known and do fantastic and important work. The NGOs we’ll be profiling here are less well known and also important to support, promote and celebrate. First up today is The Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking, introduced by its Development Director, Rev. Carrie Pemberton Ford …

 

 

Tell us about your NGO and your own role.

My name is Carrie Pemberton Ford. I am an Anglican priest and academic, as well as Development Director of the Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking (CCARHT). The Centre is based in Cambridge (UK). CCARHT is a nonprofit (or not-for-profit) Community Interest Company (CIC), which has Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) recognition from the United Nations office working on counter trafficking.

CCARHT’s vision is to foster applied research that addresses the contemporary global scourge of Human Trafficking, as well as to set this scourge in the wider context of social justice, gender equity, international economic and political power distribution, safer migration and asylum corridors, voice and victim empowerment, and multi-partner co-operation. Human trafficking, as defined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the ‘hydra-headed monster’ manifesting in multiple forms that we seek to defeat. This is in line with the Palermo Protocols: three protocols adopted by the United Nations to supplement the 2000 Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Two of these protocols address human trafficking: one is aimed at suppressing and punishing the trafficking of persons, especially women and children; the second addresses the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air.

The Shiloh Project explores the intersections between, on the one hand, rape culture, and, on the other, religion. On some of our subsidiary projects we work together with third-sector organizations (including NGOs and FBOs). We also want to raise awareness about and address and resist rape culture manifestations and gender-based violence directly. We’re interested to hear your answers to the following:

 How did you get involved in the work you are doing? Do you see religion having impact on the setting where you are working – and how do you perceive that impact?

I was involved in developing victim care responses to human trafficking before the Palermo Protocols became ratified by the UK Government (in 2003). I was the founder of the UK Charity Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking across Europe (CHASTE), and the instigator of the NOT FOR SALE campaign, which raises the issue of the commodification of female lives, along with a minority culture of male lives, within the sex industry. This was my entry into the last fifteen years of working in resistance to human trafficking – in its widest interpretation, which involves labour trafficking (or, slavery), child exploitation, organ trafficking, gamete trafficking and surrogacy, alongside trafficking for sexual exploitation and child abuse within the pornography ‘industry’.

The role of religion is extremely compromised and complex in the challenge of human trafficking. On the one hand, those of us whose faith discourse developed within a culture that values human liberation, gender equality and human rights, recognize religious communities as having powerful potential to interrupt and begin to dismantle cultures of commodification, devaluation of the ‘divine image’ imprint of humanity, and gender-based and racial hierarchies, alongside also age-related abuse, which runs as a major vein across human trafficking and modern slavery. On the other hand, many of these discourses have had long and embarrassing support from patriarchal and systematized ‘canonical’ teachings and their organizational realization.

Consequently, the role of religion is profoundly ambiguous, but offers some dynamic opportunities to address the diverse challenges around human trafficking – from the articulations of state interests, as well as some global conversations around international distribution of resources, value chains, and ensuring safe corridors for the movement of people – all of which address international trafficking – whilst also exploring community accountability, social justice and rape cultures within the domestic and national space.

Whether positive or negative, the role and impact of religion cannot and should not be ignored – including in terms of understanding the full picture of human trafficking.

 How do you understand ‘rape culture’ and do you think it can be resisted or detoxified?

 Rape culture is about the failure of interpersonal respect and the dereliction of an understanding of gendered difference founded on radical human equality. Rape culture underpins or is underpinned by political and economic hierarchies where the active consent of the other becomes void. Though its etymological background lies in the 1970s feminist movement, with a specific focus on ‘outing’ the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalizes male sexual violence, rape culture exists up until today and is fed by every societal message where one gender, ethnicity, class, ability, or sexuality becomes dominant and ‘entitled’ to transgress the embodied boundaries of the other.

Rape culture is resisted and detoxified through the raising up of equality, equity, and personal autonomy as rights protected by the State for all its citizens, by the enactment of the United Nations’ inalienable rights (as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948), and wherever religious discourse privileges this way of viewing humanity over and against the hierarchical forms which have so often dominated western and other cultures.

Sex trafficking is one form of human trafficking and directly indicative of rape culture. It violates fundamental human rights and human dignity and generates illicit finance for the pimps and traffickers complicit in each and every delivery of a female, male or transgender person into the regional, national or international ‘sex market’. It feeds off the normalization of rape culture whereby the ‘consumer’ does not perceive their transaction as anything other than a ‘purchase’, consent having allegedly been delivered by the agreement to ‘exchange’ a body or bodily service for money.

The relationship between sex trafficking and prostitution more generally is important to disentangle. Important here is the recent and incisive work of Julie Bindel. Her book The Pimping of Prostitution offers some clear insights into the multiple tiers implicit in the notion of ‘consent’ within the context of the global sex industry. She also highlights how the dominant culture refuses to explore the profound power asymmetries present in the embodied politics of this ‘market’ exchange, where the golden mean of the market is rigged by profound systemic inequalities in terms of gender, ethnicity and class.

These matters inform some of the challenges religious discourse needs to address going forward. CCARHT has already developed a theological wing to our work to explore such challenges.

How could those who are interested find out more about your NGO? How can people contribute and where will their money go?

For information and resources, please see the CCARHT website.

We host an annual symposium, which this year is held at Cambridge University from 2nd – 6th July 2018. Our focus will be ‘Terror, Trauma and Transport’. We are hoping to spend the final day of the conference on the theological explorations underpinning the Shiloh Project. (It would be wonderful to attend your conference on 6th July – but that might be difficult, logistically!)

We are also co-curating a summer school on ‘Migrants, Human Rights and Democracy’, to be held in Palermo (Sicily) from June 11th –15th June 2018.

Another upcoming event is a mini conference to be held in London on 13th April. The focus of this is very relevant to the Shiloh Project: namely, the multi-faceted issues and dimensions surrounding the safeguarding and protection of spouses and children in the context of domestic abuse, with particular focus on the roles played by coercive control or institutional inertia of clergy and religious institutions. (Please see: #Hometruths and #Badfaithed or contact me: [email protected])

CCARHT is a not-for-profit organization, and all donations go towards financing publications, mini symposia, research and at-risk-community interventions. These currently involve work in all of Sicily, Catalonia, Macedonia, Ukraine, and the UK.

All our work is focused on developing effective and more sustainable counter-human-trafficking interventions. In the course of this, we look, for example, at international and inter-regional economic fractures, the nexus with migration, creating asylum delivery, victim protection and survivor care, entrepreneurial empowerment for survivors, averting risky behaviours and situations for communities working with unaccompanied minors, supply chain transparency and value chain transformation.

We rely on fee-paying participation of our training symposia, on commissioned reports and donations for the business intervention and training work we are currently undertaking in Sicily, and on co-sponsored arts interventions – the most recent being #Justsex. We are currently seeking £8,000 to develop #Justsex materials to support the ‘Physical Theatre’ work which is currently beginning to find access into School PSHE (Personal and Social Health Education) programmes. (Please contact me directly for more details!)

Please see our library page on www.ccarht.org for our latest reports including our recent submission on ‘Behind Closed Doors: Addressing Human Trafficking, Servitude and Domestic Abuse Through the Black African Churches in London’, which has resulted in the development of a new charity from the cluster working on precisely these issues – namely, ‘Seraphs Tackling Social Injustice’.

 What kinds of posts would you like to see on The Shiloh Project blog and what kinds of resources that come into our orbit would be of value to you?

 Anything around the way in which rape culture, or patriarchal thinking, or pre-emptive demolition of consent, or gang formation and criminality, works internationally, and cross-culturally, as well as how rape culture is implicitly supported through some religious structures and discourses – and also how rape culture can start to be dismantled through a liberation theology or through a breach in rape culture-supportive theological praxis.

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Call for papers! Religion and Rape Culture Conference, 6th July 2018

Religion and Rape Culture Conference

  • The University of Sheffield, 6th July 2018
  • We are thrilled to confirm that one of our key-note speakers will be Professor Cheryl Exum.

We are delighted to announce a one day interdisciplinary conference exploring and showcasing research into the phenomenon of rape culture, both throughout history and within contemporary societies across the globe. In particular, we aim to investigate the complex and at times contentious relationships that exist between rape culture and religion, considering the various ways religion can both participate in and contest rape culture discourses and practices.

We are also interested in the multiple social identities that invariably intersect with rape culture, including gender, disabilities, sexuality, race and class. The Shiloh Project specialises in the field of Biblical Studies, but we also strongly encourage proposals relating to rape culture alongside other religious traditions, and issues relating to rape culture more broadly.

This conference is open to researchers at any level of study, and from any discipline. We invite submissions of abstracts no more than 300 words long and a short bio no later than 19th March. Please indicate whether your submission is for a poster or a presentation. We particularly welcome abstracts on the following topics:

  • Gender violence and the Bible
  • Gender, class and rape culture
  • Visual representations of biblical gender violence
  • Representations of rape culture in the media and popular culture
  • Teaching traumatic texts
  • Methods of reading for resistance and/or liberation
  • Sexual violence in schools and Higher Education
  • Religion, rape culture and the gothic/horror genre
  • Spiritualities and transphobia
  • Familial relations and the Bible

For more information, or to submit an abstract, email [email protected]

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Using religious imagery in popular culture to explore and challenge everyday sexism, sexual harassment and abuse together with secondary school students

Our White Rose Collaboration Fund project will begin soon and the webpage is already live!

Revelations of pervasive sexual harassment and abuse are emerging from numerous settings. Moreover, educational research shows that such is prevalent already among school pupils. Children as young as 7 experience sexualized name-calling, unwanted touching and appearance-related bullying. Teachers report witnessing such practices and feeling ill-equipped to respond (Women’s and Equalities Committee Report, 2016).

Our multi-disciplinary collaboration brings together academics from Education, English, Biblical and Religious Studies to explore sexism and sexual harassment in secondary school settings using one discrete focus and lens: the role of religious imagery in popular culture (particularly advertising and music videos).

Religious imagery (e.g. the veil, the Cross) is widely used in popular culture both to represent and reinforce ideologies about such complex concepts as ‘sexuality’, ‘purity’, ‘virginity’, or ‘im/morality’. This imagery also conveys notions that casualize or glamourize sexual harassment or violence, reinforce the normativity of heterosexuality, and perpetuate racist associations between Blackness and certain sexual characteristics/desires. Such representations can be regarded as problematic in relation to young people’s understandings of gender, sex and sexualities.

In consultation with secondary schools from all three White Rose regions and a third-sector organization offering gender equality training for school-age girls (Fearless Futures), the network will conduct three pilot workshops with secondary school students (girls and boys) to investigate interactions with religious imagery in popular culture and the ways in which these representations shape understandings of gender, sex and sexualities.

Professor Vanita Sundaram (University of York) will lead the project with Dr Johanna Stiebert (University of Leeds) and Dr Katie Edwards (University of Sheffield), working alongside colleagues Dr Valerie Hobbs (University of Sheffield), Dr Sarah Olive (University of York), Dr Jasjit Singh (University of Leeds), Dr Caroline Starkey (University of Leeds), Ms Sofia Rehman (University of Leeds) and Dr Meredith Warren (University of Sheffield).

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More Grant Success for The Shiloh Project

The Shiloh project directors, Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland), Katie Edwards (University of Sheffield) and Johanna Stiebert (University of Leeds), are co-investigators of a successful Worldwide Universities Network research development grant with the University of Ghana.

Katie Edwards and Johanna Stiebert will visit the University of Ghana in 2018. Stay tuned for more updates on the project!

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The Daughter and the Concubine from the Nineteenth Chapter of Judges Consider and Speak Their Minds, Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon

The following dual-voiced poem by Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon is based on the brutal story found in the Bible in Judges 19.

Background: The Biblical Text

Aptly called a ‘text of terror’ by feminist biblical interpreter Phyllis Trible, this chapter tells of an unnamed Levite (that is, someone of the tribe of Levi from which the hereditary priests and other sacred functionaries were descended) and ‘his’ concubine (usually understood to be a wife of secondary status, particularly in polygamous societies).

For some reason – either because she was angry with the Levite (so the Greek version), or because she had ‘prostituted’ herself (so the Hebrew version – though it is unclear if the intended meaning is literal or figurative) – the concubine had earlier left the Levite and returned to her father’s house in Bethlehem. After four months, accompanied by a servant and donkeys, the Levite comes to get her back. The father delays the Levite for four days but on the fifth he sets off, taking the concubine. No word is said about her willingness to leave or otherwise.

Unwilling to spend the night among the Jebusites, as the servant proposes, the Levite determines (because the Jebusites are foreigners) to spend the night in Gibeah, a town settled by Israelites of the tribe of Benjamin. Arriving late, they are taken in by an old man who offers them hospitality.

As they are making merry, worthless, or perverse men, surround the house and pound on the door, demanding to ‘know’ the man staying as guest within. (The Hebrew word ‘to know’ can be used as a euphemism for carnal knowledge and the New Revised Standard Version consequently translates, ‘so that we may have intercourse with him’, Judges 19:22). (Quite a number of commentators point to the clear parallels between this part of the story and Genesis 19:5, set in Sodom.)

The old man tries to appease the men by telling them not to do such wickedness to his guest. Instead, horrifyingly, he offers them his own (previously unmentioned) virgin daughter and also the concubine, saying (in the NRSV translation), ‘Ravish them and do whatever you want to them; but against this man do not do such a vile thing.’ (Similarly, in Genesis 19, Lot offers his two virgin daughters to protect his guests.)

Neither the daughter, nor the concubine has a voice in the biblical text. All characters are nameless but unlike all the male characters (the father, the Levite, the servant, the old man, the men of Gibeah) neither female character (concubine or daughter) has voice.

When the men won’t listen, the Levite pushes his concubine outside the door and she is gang-raped all night until morning. At dawn she falls at the door, her hands on the threshold – one of the most affecting and distressing images of the entire Bible, surely.

When the Levite tells the concubine to get up, she does not, or cannot respond. He puts her on the donkey and returns home. Once there, he dismembers her body and sends its twelve pieces throughout all Israel as a summons to war.

This violent and gruesome story of the threatened rape of the Levite, of the offering up for rape of the daughter and the concubine, and of the gang-rape, killing and dismemberment of the concubine is – once events move away from Bethlehem to Gibeah – sparsely told.

There is every reason to believe that this brutal story elicited horror. Horrified outrage is certainly the response of the Israelites who receive the pieces of the concubine’s corpse. Subsequent events (related in Judges 20–21) are war and more rape and the call for stronger leadership in the form of a king, to put an end to mayhem. What is missing is not horror or outrage but any attempt at insight into the women’s terror and suffering. Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon addresses this lack.

Background: Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon

Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon is an award-winning poet and an Associate Professor teaching creative writing at Cornell University. Her magnificent published works include Black Swan, Open Interval and, together with Elizabeth Alexander, Poems in Conversation and a Conversation. She has also published in numerous journals and anthologies and is currently at work on another collection of poems, The Coal Tar Colors.

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 Black Swan, in which this poem is published, is winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and includes several pieces inspired by women of the Bible and classical mythology who were pursued or raped by either men or male deities, including, alongside the daughter and concubine of Judges 19, also Tamar, Dinah (you can find the poem here), Daphne (here), Helen and Leda.

These poems are part of a growing creative tradition of giving voice and full characterization to women of antiquity. Other examples are Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent, telling Dinah’s story in her own words, Alicia Ostriker’s ‘Jephthah’s Daughter: A Lament’ and Christa Wolf’s Cassandra and Medea.

Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon hails from Florida and in a fabulous interview containing many language (and other) gems speaks of early memories and of profound influences on her life. These include memories of racism and recollections of hitting the drop zone as a teenager, of the ‘beauty and terror’ of her Pentecostal upbringing and of working in a men’s prison.

Lyrae van Clief-Stefanon is public and vocal about being a survivor of child sexual abuse and of rape. In one of her recorded poetry readings from Black Swan she speaks also to her concern about campus rape culture. Her powerful poems break into the silence around rape, giving voice to voiceless women of the Bible and mythology and addressing abusiveness and injustice, particularly against victims of racism and of sexual violence, right up to the present.

 

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The following poem is reproduced here with kind permission of the author. It is published in Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Black Swan (Pitt Poetry Series, edited by Ed Ochester), University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002, pp.31–36.

 

The Daughter and the Concubine from the Nineteenth Chapter of Judges Consider and Speak Their Minds

 

Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine;

Them I will bring out now, and humble ye them,

And do with them what seemeth good unto you: But unto this man

Do not so vile a thing.

 

  1. 1.

Suddenly, I am a stranger                            Last visit, I stayed four months

in my father’s house.                                      in my father’s house.

 

His doors open to any man                          For that, my man calls me

off the street, he opens his mouth              whore, his mouth full of bread

 

to make me prostitute.                                 as this old man offers me

Pimp, he has forgotten                                 with his daughter

 

my name. And how I                                     to the hoodlums in the road.

tended his fevers, wept                                I have been whoring after home

 

at the foot of his bed, slept                          since the day I left.

prayers while age played                             I miss my daddy’s easy smile.

 

the fool with his body.                                  This time he tried so hard

What thing exists too vile                             to make us stay, seems like

 

For this man he’s known                              he saw this coming.

one half day that be                                      My man can talk

 

not too vile for me?                                       so pretty when he wants to,

I do not need to be humbled.                      pretty enough

 

And this girl, this wayfaring                         to love, but I know

man’s woman who sticks so                         when he looks

 

close to the walls seems like                        unsatisfied. I know

she longs to slip into                                     when he looks unsatisfied

 

her own shadow, she looks                          not to stand staring

humble down to her bones.                         into a man’s mouth.

 

 

But the men would not hearken to him:

So the man took his concubine, and brought her forth unto them;

And they knew her, and abused her all the night until the morning:

And when the day began to spring, they let her go.

 

  1. 2.

They would have gone.                                I never learned but one prayer

They would have heckled the                     that was Daddy

house,                                                              And Daddy was answer

cursed and called until they’d                     quick to answer

grown                                                              And Daddy and me were praise

                                                                          And Daddy was Hallelujah

bored. They might have thrown                 And I was Glory Glory

a stone, broken a window, but                    And Daddy was Great

then                                                                  Day in the Morning

they would have gone                                   And I was Yes Lord Yes

                                                                           And I was a gift once

and left us alone.                                           And I was Daddy’s to give

But he brought her to them                         And Daddy was joy and sorrow

the way one might drop                               And Daddy was Oh

                                                                          my baby gal done got big

an ant into a spider’s web.                            And Daddy was Lord

And my father, silent, watched                    she done grown and gone

curious to see destruction.                           And Daddy said

                                                                           Make that negro treat you right

It could have easily been me.                      And Daddy said Come back if he

It could have easily been me.                                  don’t

It could have easily been me.                      And Daddy said Come anyway

                                                                           I’m making your favorite

Not one creature stirs.                                  And Daddy said Come anyway

It is as though the birds                               Y’all can have your old room but

no longer recognize                                      I am in the eye of something so

                                                                                     bright

morning: a cheap faint glow                       I am in the middle of light

haunting the eastern sky                             I am in the middle of something

and what is there to sing about?                             so

                                                                           bright I can’t see day

If I had but a burrow                                     breaking I am in the middle of

I would call myself blessed.                         something so bright Daddy

If I had a grave, I would climb                    I’m praying for night

into it.

 

Then came the woman in the dawning of the day,

And fell down at the door of the man’s house

Where her lord was, till it was light.

 

  1. 3.

The smell of death squats                            Day comes like something

in every corner: this house stinks              snatched from me

of men. I have to spit.                                   I keep

My mouth keeps                                           hearing snatches, songs

Filling with saliva. In the kitchen              Precious Lord,

I hold the back of my hand                         take my hand

to my nose                                                      the same line keeps

and try to remember                                    catching me

some other                                                     I am tired

smell than male                                             I am tired

sweat and musk                                            I am tired

and spilled semen                                         Do not lead me

that hangs heavy                                           to the light

in these rooms. I am afraid                         I am afraid

to open the windows,                                   of what waits for me

afraid the outside air                                   Precious Lord,

will carry the same                                       where is my

smell,                                                               Lord

will add to this mixture                                I am

blood.                                                              tired

 

 

And her lord rose up in the morning,

And opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way:

And, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down

At the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold.

 

  1. 4.

Ground glass.                                                 Say one

Nightshade.                                                    sweet word

Pot ash.                                                           to me.

 

Blood tired, blood                                          I am waiting

tired. Blood tired.                                          to be comforted.

 

Polk berry.                                                     Something

Jimson weed.                                                 pretty

Snake venom.                                                to the skin,

 

My father.                                                      the dirt

My God.                                                          beneath my fingernails,

 

Arsenic.                                                           to my mouth,

Diffenbachia.                                                 twisted and full

Monkshood.                                                   of sand,

 

Blood tired. Blood                                          pretty words

tired. Blood tired.                                          for bruises,

 

Ground glass.                                                 for my raw throat

Nightshade.                                                    burning. Bring flowers

Pot ash.                                                           for me like you

 

My God.                                                          used to.

 

And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going.

But none answered.

Then the man took her up upon an ass,

And the man rose up, and gat him unto his place.

 

  1. 5.

Should I

refuse

to tell

this story

 

May I

never again

cross my

father’s

threshold

 

And when he was come into his house,

He took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine,

And divided her, together with her bones …

Consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

Judges 19: 24–30

 

  1. 6.

Blood                                                              I am

drips from                                                      not forsaken

block                                                               and no

to Earth                                                          war

spinning witness                                           will silence

mud tinted                                                     my bones.

red/black                                                       This Earth

soaked.                                                           drinks

When                                                              my

a man finds                                                    blood

his soul                                                           in remembrance

wracked                                                         and no

and one                                                          man

finger                                                              will silence it.

points back                                                    I have put

to this blood,                                                 my story

when                                                               into

the moon                                                        my sisters’

goes down                                                      mouths

in this                                                              and we

blood,                                                              will sing

when the sun                                                 and we

refuses this                                                    will wail

blood, my soul                                               and we

will say                                                           will shout.

Yes.                                                                 Amen.

 __________________________________________________________________________

 

Feature Image: ‘Judges 19’ by Mario Moore, 2009.

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Shiloh Project Research Visit to the Universities of Botswana and KwaZulu-Natal

In March 2017 Katie Edwards and I travelled to Botswana and South Africa for one week to make a presentation at the University of Botswana and attend a workshop at the Ujamaa Centre in Pietermaritzburg. We received support for this visit from the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) Newton Fund and the University of Leeds research fund. Our purpose was to explore possibilities for collaboration towards a larger-scale project on intersections of religion and rape culture. (We have since submitted an application for a grant.)

Our time was busy and productive. On Monday 20 March we gave one presentation each: I went first and discussed what rape culture is and how it relates to texts of the Hebrew Bible. Following this, Katie presented on biblical imagery in popular culture, with particular focus on how it promotes sexist and racist stereotyping, as well as gender-based violence.

Dr Johanna Stiebert (University of Leeds) and Dr Maude Dikobe (University of Botswana)

This went on to open an extended discussion on religion and rape culture in Botswana. Representatives from the Kagisano Women’s Shelter, women’s rights NGO Emang Basadi (‘Women Rise Up!) and LGBTQ rights group Legabibo (‘Lesbians, Gays & Bisexuals of Botswana’), a sub-group of Botswana human rights organization Ditshwanelo were present, as were a number of staff specializing in gender studies, among them Dr. Mmapula Kebaneilwe (womanist scholar of the Hebrew Bible), Professor Musa Dube (postcolonial-feminist scholar of the New Testament and authority in HIV and Aids theology) and Dr. Maude Dikobe (former Chair of the University of Botswana’s Gender Policy and Programme Committee and Senior Lecturer in Literature and the Expressive Arts of Africa and the African Diaspora).

On the following day we met with the Honourable Justice Unity Dow, Minister for Basic Education, to discuss what is happening currently and what more can still be done to teach awareness of gender-based violence. In the evening we met artistic director Moratiwa Molema, and Drs Mary Lederer and Leloba Molema, two of the editors of a forthcoming anthology of women’s writing in and about Botswana, with a view to organizing a live performance of excerpts depicting gender-based violence, to be followed by a panel discussion with audience involvement. This will need to wait until we obtain funding.

The next day we departed for Pietermaritzburg to meet Professor Gerald West and other members of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Ujamaa Centre. The Ujamaa Centre has been a hub of socially engaged Bible study for well over twenty years. It is here that both contextual Bible criticism and the ‘reading with’ strategy were pioneered. One major focus of the centre has been on reading with women vulnerable to and affected by gender-based violence. This has grown into the Tamar Project, which now provides many resources and strategies online. There is much to learn from the staff and participants of the Ujamaa Centre – more than such a brief visit would permit. We also determined that our own approaches would be rather different – not least, because our own position and context are so different from that of Ujamaa’s workshop leaders and participants. We really hope that we can take some of our ideas forward – so, here’s hoping for that grant

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