Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections

Article excerpt

Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: Interdisciplinary Intersections, edited by Stephen D. Moore and Fernando F. Segovia. The Bible and Postcolonialism Series. London: T&T Clark International, 2005. Pp. viii + 206. $79.95 (cloth). ISBN 0567084396.

This volume, which both charts and flows out of the creation of the New Testament Studies and Postcolonial Studies consultation, endeavors to cover the widening of this field precisely by considering its interdisciplinary connections with a range of theoretical developments. As reflected by the contributions to this volume, poststructuralism, feminism, critical race/ethnicity studies, and Marxism are addressed by those scholars most apt to theorize these intersections. Since there are relatively few entries (especially considering the scope of this volume), this review will survey the individual contributions before offering a few critical reflections on the volume as a whole.

The first contribution ("Postcolonial Biblical Criticism: Beginnings, Trajectories, Intersections," 1-22) by the co-editors, Moore and Segovia, serves as an efficient introduction to the whole. Moore and Segovia briefly explain some of the institutional history of postcolonial approaches in the Society of Biblical Literature, while highlighting the oft-ignored work of scholars such as Susan VanZanten Gallagher and Mark Prior. Aside from the perfunctory summary of the contents to follow, the introduction also helpfully outlines three different (though not wholly separate) trajectories in postcolonial biblical criticism: a focus upon contextual or cultural hermeneutics, the study of empire (though not necessarily with postcolonial tools), and a heavier engagement with extrabiblical postcolonial studies (5-10).

The second entry ("Mapping the Postcolonial Optic in Biblical Criticism: Meaning and Scope," 23-78) by Segovia, a literature review of extrabiblical postcolonial work, is the lengthiest contribution, taking up nearly a quarter of the volume. Segovia ambitiously seeks to examine the domain and the definitions of postcolonial analysis, itself a commendable task, as matters of definition are often slippery in the realm of theory and made all the more difficult when applied in biblical studies. Key dictionary entries and some of the better known introductory volumes from the likes of Ania Loomba, Leela Gandhi, and John McLeod are surveyed to address questions of scope, relevant period(s), and field of inquiry. Segovia sums up the major variations while stating his own preference over the force of the term, the nomenclature used, the area covered, and the nature, result, and reference emphasized. The overview demonstrates the necessity of postcolonial work on biblical materials, given the gaps in the examination of matters both religious and ancient in postcolonial studies (as well as spatial or geographic lacunae in the examination of the United States, Russian and Soviet republics, as well as Latin America and the Caribbean).

The third entry ("Questions of Biblical Ambivalence and Authority under a Tree outside Delhi; or, the Postcolonial and the Postmodern," 79-96) by Moore examines the interaction of poststructuralism with or within postcolonialism, in a fashion now characteristic of Moore, by eclectically ruminating on a number of topics. Poststructuralism is posited as an adjudicating third "post" term between postmodernism and postcolonialism, especially since the high profile postcolonial trinity of Said, Spivak, and Bhabha are each in some ways practicing or indebted to poststructuralist analyses. Moore rehearses some of the critiques of postcolonial theory, most notably those of Aijaz Ahmad, addressing them in part by attesting to personal and pedagogical experiences of their relevance and utility for students. As the title indicates, this contribution reconsiders the historical anecdote that Bhabha himself reconsidered about the introduction of the Bible as a book that is simultaneously imperial and native, English and Indian (in "Signs Taken for Wonders"). …

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