Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

Orange is the New Bible Interview: Jade Ward

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Jade1. Hello! Tell us about yourself…who are you and what do you do?
Hello! My name is Jade Ward and I am currently studying for a MA in Biblical Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I graduated from the University of Leeds with a degree in Theology and Religious Studies in 2015, where I was fortunate enough to meet and become friends with Jo and Lucy. I’m particularly interested in messianic and apocalyptic literature in the Hebrew Bible and non-canonical documents, which may make me seem like an odd candidate for involvement in this project.

2. How did you get involved with/interested in Orange is the New Bible?
I first encountered Orange is the New Bible through Twitter and Facebook and was immediately intrigued by the idea. I messaged Jo and Lucy, and started bouncing potential areas for discussion around with them both, knowing that I just had to be involved with the project in some capacity.

3. What interests you about Orange is the New Black and the Bible?
When watching the show, it was impossible not to notice the parallels being drawn between biblical narratives and inmates of Litchfield. Religion has such a prominent role in the show, and I think that OITNBible is a brilliant way to discuss and attempt to understand the overt and subliminal biblical influences that are witnessed in the show. Away from Orange is the New Black, the recent explosion of historical TV shows, such as ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘Vikings’, as well as the “adaptations” (I use the term lightly) of the stories of Noah and the Exodus into blockbuster films, have thrust religious content back into the mainstream media in an overt manner, and I think it is hugely important that the media’s portrayal of religious beliefs and traditions are responsible and engaging for a modern audience, without losing any of the essence of the original material.

4. How can Orange is the New Bible relate to your everyday work?
I’ll confess that sexuality and gender are not typically a focal point of my own studies, as I find them challenging enough to explore as it is, without bringing the complexity of biblical literature into the discussion. But that has been one of the driving forces behind my involvement in OITNBible; gender and sexuality are so pivotal to all aspects of biblical exploration, whether I like to admit it or not, and I really have enjoyed unpacking and understanding the ways in which gender roles have both consciously and subconsciously influenced my own interpretation of biblical narratives and their messages.

5. OITNBible is a Hidden Perspectives project. How do you think OITNBible can help ‘bring the Bible out of the closet’?
I think OITNBible will help people engage with the Bible in ways that may previously have been unavailable to them, such as my own foray into gender studies as a result of OITNB. Individuality and identity have a significant role throughout OITNB, in my opinion, and the Bible also plays a crucial role in the establishing of identity for so many people. The diversity of characters in OITNB also encourages different approaches for interpretation of biblical texts, which I think fits perfectly with the inclusive nature of Hidden Perspectives as a project.

6. If you’ve seen the TV show, tell us about one character and why they interest you?
It’s hard to narrow down one character and why they interest me, in all honesty! I think it’s hard not to be drawn to the story of Tiffany, and the development that her character undertakes throughout the show, on both a personal and a religious level. I’m also drawn to the story of Red as one of the matriarchs in Litchfield, and how this influences her relationships with both the inmates and authority figures of the prison.

7. What other projects are you working on and/or what is next for you??
I hope to finish my MA in 2016 and eventually move onto a PhD in Biblical Studies, with a particular emphasis on Second Temple Judaism and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

8. What would you like to see OITNBible do next?
I would love to see OITNBible become a regular event; a one day Symposium just doesn’t seem like enough time to discuss everything. As has been mentioned before by other interviewees, I think OITNBible offers a great chance at engagement with social justice issues, not least with the treatment of prisoners or those suffering injustice of some kind.

9. Is there anything else you’d like to say about OITNBible at the moment?

I can’t wait to hear everybody’s papers and ideas in February. Biblical studies remains an important area of contemporary scholarship, and I that think OITNBible is a fascinating project, with great potential for future development, and I’m really excited to see how Jo and Lucy take it forward.


Author: Hidden Perspectives

A research project within the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) at The University of Sheffield.

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