Hidden Perspectives

Bringing the Bible Out of the Closet

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Bookings open for Hidden Perspectives Presents… Nancy Tan and Nechama Hadari

10 May 2016, 17.30-19.30,
G.03 Jessop West, Upper Hannover Street, Sheffield

The bookings are now open for Hidden Perspectives Presents… Nancy Tan and Nechama Hadari.  We are delighted to invite Nancy and Nechama to Sheffield to share their papers with us. Come and join us for a wine reception, and hear two challenging and thought provoking papers from world-renown scholars.

Tickets are free but must be booked directly from Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/hidden-perspectives-presents-nancy-tan-and-nechama-hadari-tickets-24787193162

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Hidden Perspectives Presents… Nancy Tan and Nechama Hadari, 10 May 2016

Hidden Perspectives are delighted to welcome Nancy Tan and Nechama Hadari to Sheffield! They will be speaking at a special evening lecture event on 10 May 2016. bookings open next week, so and come and hear two of the most thought-provoking biblical scholars!

Hong Kong Sex Workers: Mothers Reading1 Kgs 3:16­–28, by Nancy Tan.

This project is inspired by Avaren Ipsen’s Sex Working and the Bible in which she reads select biblical texts with sex workers in the San Francisco Bay area. After reading the story of Solomon and the two prostitutes (1 Kings 3.16-28), these sex workers (unlike the majority of biblical commentators) concluded that Solomon’s wise judgment was “a dispensation of violence rather than justice”, and “unrealistic” in depicting a quarrel between two sex workers over a baby. We have replicated a reading of this same story with Hong Kong sex workers and have listened to how they interpret this text. This presentation offers a glimpse into the lives of Hong Kong sex workers and into their interpretations of the story, interfacing these with interpretations from biblical academia and compelling us to re-think the implications and significance of this story. This presentation situates the Hong Kong sex workers’ interpretations in dialogue with those of biblical commentators, and by prioritizing the former, re-interprets the significance of this story in the light of Solomon’s narratives in 1 Kings 1–11. It also points to crucial cultural and contextual issues which have often been ignored.

About Nancy:
Nancy Tan is Associate Professor in Hebrew Bible in the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She works on interpretations of women in the Hebrew Bible. Her current interests lie in promoting Contextual Interpretations for the marginalized in her community. She is currently working on a project of re-interpreting the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27) for the disabled, as well as on a bilingual book on feminist interpretations of the Bible for Hong Kong. She is now on sabbatical leave and has taken up the post of Visiting Research Fellow with the University of Leeds.

“v’et Parshandata v’et Dalphon v’et Aspatha…” The 10 sons of Haman and the problematics of Post-Holocaust theology, by Nechama Hadari

Drawing on the recent proliferation of feminist analyses and reworkings of traditional fairytales, I offer a feminist reading of the Book of Esther, examining in particular the connections between power, food and drink, body and property. Threading together these themes, I reflect on the way the text raises questions regarding notions of “inheritance” and “legacy” – in both their physical and spiritual senses.

Because of way in which this Biblical story about an attempt to kill all the Jews – men, women and children – tends to evoke analogy and comparison with the narrative of the Holocaust, I then explore the way in which the themes I have identified in the text if Esther arise again and again in the context of media representations of the post-Holocaust lives of the NaziKinder – the children and identifiable descendants of prominent figures in the Third Reich.

Upon returning to the text of Esther, I find myself deeply disturbed by the account of the hanging of the ten sons of Haman and the seemingly excessive retributive violence dealt out by the Jewish community on their erstwhile enemies at the end of the story. On the other hand, I am acutely aware of the anti-Semitism expressed in the comments and commentaries of others similarly disturbed (most notably Martin Luther). Finally, then, I will offer some suggestions as to how the fairy-tale genre of Esther and the placing of its performance within the Jewish calendar might, far from validating depictions of the Jewish community as vengeful and violent, actually open up new possibilities for a more nuanced and moral relationship (for all of us) with the continuing aftermath of post-conflict trauma.

About Nechama:
Nechama Hadari gained her PhD in Religions and Theology from The University of Manchester in 2012. Her doctoral thesis – on the rabbinic understanding of the human will in the context of Jewish Divorce Law – was awarded the International Council of Jewish Women’s annual prize for academic research in 2013 and was published as a monograph “The Kosher Get: A Halakhic Story of Divorce”. During the first half of 2013, she was a Polonsky Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Her continuing interest in probing what Jewish religious texts may have to contribute to a discussion of autonomy, gender and post-conflict have led to her write on subjects as seemingly varied as: the halakhic status of coercive treatment for anorexia nervosa sufferers, the problem of attributing criminal blame in the wake of war crimes, different philosophies of conversion to Judaism and the legal and moral problems created by Vanessa Lapa’s recent documentary about Heinrich Himmler.

Orange is the New Bible week, Day 5: 7 ways Orange is the New Black is like the Bible

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A version complete with Gifs can be found at Jo Merrygold’s tumblr.

1. The most well-known and familiar characters are not the only interesting ones

While it may be hard going to ignore Adam and Eve, Mary, Joseph and Jesus, or even Noah and David, but are they the only interesting biblical characters

Just as in Orange is the New Black, it is sometimes the initially out of focus or otherwise overlooked characters which demand a closer look. Who would be closest to a biblical Miss Claudette, Janae Watson or Yoga Jones?

Perhaps Jael in Judges, Lot’s unnamed wife in Genesis or the Widow of Nain in Luke shed light on the underlying situations in the stories that we often pretend to ignore.

2. It’s all about the hair, and how you wear it

Sophia Burset may be the queen of Litchfield’s salon but her work doesn’t stop after she’s pampered her fellow inmates.

She offers the prisoners a chance to find and reaffirm their identities, there is no chat about where so and so is going holiday here but she still reveals who the prisoners really are and who they’re meant to be. It’s all about the hair in the Hebrew Bible too, think hairy Esau, and his gender queering brother, Jacob. And who can forget Samson? The powerful leader whose hair removal, like that of the brutal attack on Sophia in season three, means a loss of not just identity but of self – only regained once their hair is back in place.

3. Hero or villain – you can hardly tell by their behaviour

In prison there are no good guys and bad guys, angels and demons. OITNB shows us the grey areas of prison life. Prison staff, like Sam Healy, Natalie Figueroa, John Bennet and Joe Caputo, cross back and forth. Who is really the one imprisoned? And who can forget the case of ‘Pornstache’ Mendez, who literally goes from one side of the bars to the other?

Biblical heroes aren’t always so great either, King David is quite frankly a terrible Dad, Noah gets drunk and commits acts of incest, and Moses is a murderer. Safe to say there are blurred lines wherever we stand.

4. You can’t place enough value on food

Whether it is Chang’s illicit oranges or carefully crafted meals made from commissary supplies, the hunt for the mythical chicken, Norma’s face appearing in a piece of toast, wars about noodles or access to the kitchen, the increased demand for kosher food, or a yoghurt given to those in the right tribe, food and the search for it is ever present in the prison world of OITNB. Healy tries to bribe Chapman with a doughnut while Red exerts her control and self-identity through the food she serves the other inmates.

It is a preoccupation, and one evident in the Bible throughout both Old and New Testaments. From the selection and consumption of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, via manna from heaven and the hospitality of Lady Wisdom in Proverbs, through to discussions of food rules and purity, to the feeding of the 5000, last supper and Revelation’s edible scrolls, food underpins so many of the biblical narratives and the subsequent religious practices. Are you hungry for more?

5.Racial tribes are policed: you know whether you’re an insider or not

Do you want to be in my gang? Well, the tribes are clear in OITNB and Chapman is mocked and ridiculed for even attempting to transgress these inimitable boundaries. …those boundaries

Chapman can’t watch tv with the black girls, have showers with the Latina’s, eat with the ‘Golden Girls’. Rarely do outsiders find a way in, and if they do, like SoSo in season three, it often follows tragedy. This is the same in the biblical texts, there is always a group ganging up on the other, telling them they’re right, telling them who can and can’t join in. Like in OITNB these lines are crossed and attempted to be redrawn, like in Ezra and Nehemiah, the story of Ruth, and even the policing of behavior in the New Testament Epistles.

6. Rape is far more common than we like to admit

OITNB does not shy away from the difficult topics especially when it comes to depictions of sexual violence and rape. Who can give consent? What about Daya and her complex relationships with both Bennet and Pornstache.

The portrayal of Pennsatucky’s storyline in season three led to great discussion and praise for OITNB’s portrayal of rape. It highlighted that sexual violence is ever present, and the long lasting effects it can have. We can’t ignore that rape and sexual violence is in the Bible too, however much people try to tell us otherwise. David’s rape of Bathsheba, the abuse by Lot of his daughters (did it really happen the other way round?!), the pimping out of wives by Abraham and Isaac, amongst others shows us the extent to which consent is often assumed, rather than given.

7. While the men may think they’re in charge, it’s the women who really run the thing.

Don’t ignore us, we’re still here – and we want our voices heard. Abraham has to listen to Sarah, because God says so. Jesus is put in his place by an unnamed woman who calls him out for being a racist, and Rebekah orchestrates a plot for her younger son to usurp the elder’s place in the family heirarchy. Time and time again the Bible shows us these powerful women, getting things done, and changing the world as they know it.

Think how much Red can control Healy, the relationship between Fischer and Caputo, and Daya’s manipulation of Bennett after she becomes pregnant.

Hell, the arrival of a new female counsellor messes with Healy’s confidence entirely. These authoritarian figures in their uniforms, with their weapons may think they’re in charge – but the more we look at it, the more we realise the women have it all under control.

Thanks to everyone who came along to the research symposium today and supported the ongoing #OITNBible project. Don’t forget to support the Together Women charity, in all the invaluable work they do.

A version complete with Gifs can be found at Jo Merrygold’s tumblr.

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Orange is the New Bible Week, Day 4 – Together Women

The Orange is the New Bible team is delighted to announce that we will be supporting Together Women at the symposium (19/02) and in future projects.

Together Women is an independent charity which grew out of and is primarily focused on moving women out of crime and into positive, sustainable, and rewarding futures across Yorkshire and Humberside. They have bases in Bradford, Hull, Leeds and Sheffield, and run outreach services for women in Keighley, Lincoln and New Hall prisons. The charity works with these women developing their strengths and building resilience, enabling them to break the cycle of crime, moving away from damaging life style in the safety of women-only spaces provided by the charity. They also focus on early interventions working closely with vulnerable women, teenage girls, the police, courts and other local authorities in order to halt the devastating impact the UK criminal justice system has on women’s families. For women in prison they ‘work through the gate’ ensuring that when women leave prison their resettlement will be positive, with essential needs like housing and welfare benefits addressed prior to discharge. This also helps mothers to resume responsibility for their children, allowing family life to continue after release.

Together Women now supports and welcomes all self defining women regardless of age, ethnicity, and sexuality, across their centres providing a safe space and a much needed holistic support network.

We will be holding a collection for Together Women during the day, and providing more information about the work they do in supporting vulnerable women. We hope you will also consider supporting the invaluable work they do.


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Orange is the New Bible Week, Day 3: Parallel Session papers

OITNBible Poster

OITNBible Poster

In addition to papers on Orange is the New Black and the Bible #OITNBible features interdisciplinary papers on Orange is the New Black, and on the Bible and Television. These parallel sessions, to be held in the Jessop Building at the University of Sheffield, highlight a few of the numerous possibilities for studies of OITNB, and the Bible and Television.

Bible and Television

  • Transparent Jewishness Minna Shkul
  • Exploring the desert: Breaking Bad in dialogue with ecocriticism and the Pentateuch Robin Hamon
  • Biblical Vampires: Salome in TV’s True Blood Emily R. Foster-Brown

Orange is the New Black Interdisciplinary Papers

  • OITNB and Bisexual Erasure Laura C. Saunders
  • ‘A Room of One’s Own’ – Now ‘space’ is gendered and ‘owned’ in Orange is the New Black Sarah Hammond

The last remaining ticket is still available from our Eventbrite page – don’t miss your chance to come along and book it as soon as possible!

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Orange is the New Bible Week, Day 2: #OITNBible Short Papers

OITNBible Poster

OITNBible Poster

In the second of our #OITNBible week updates, we can now share the abstracts for our range of Orange is the New Black and the Bible papers. Including contributions from people at various different stages of their academic lives, a first-year undergraduate to a renowned professor, the papers are thought provoking and exciting.

  • Jesus and Laverne Cox – A theology of transgender acceptance by Christie Broom
  • Taystee is the New Ruth? by Catherine Kennedy
  • Chaos & Christian Anarchy inside Litchfield Penitentiary by Kirsty Mabbott
  • Purification and Prison: Forming Jewish Identity in Orange is the New Black by Jessica Mary Keady
  • Searching for the Messiah of Litchfield by Jade Ward
  • Let’s toast to engineering a Messiah! by Elena Rodriguez-Falcon

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Orange is the New Bible Week, Day 1 – Keynote Papers

OITNBible Poster

OITNBible Poster

We are delighted to be able to share the abstracts for the keynote papers for Orange is the New Bible.

Keynote Papers

  • Samson and the Salon: How we construct gendered identities through hair Lucy Skerratt
  • “The Second Time Around”: The Demand for Different in Revelation and OITNB Michelle Fletcher.
  • “Best thing is to go on and let them do their business”: Religion, Rape Culture and OITNB Katie Edwards

Don’t forget, you can still book tickets by visiting our Eventbrite page – there are only a couple left!

Samson and the Salon: How we construct gendered identities through hair

Lucy Skerratt

Lu-polaHair is the great identifier, but also the great divider. The way we present ourselves says a lot about our gender, sexuality, social location, ethnicity and economic class. In Orange is the New Black, hair, although rarely an obvious thematic device plays an essential role with how the characters identify themselves, and see each other. Like the character Samson, when we lose our hair we lose a part of ourselves, become like anybody else, and located as an anonymous group member rather than an individual. With the inclusion of the hair salon within the prison, managed by Sophia, such becomes the great normaliser: giving the female prisoners a true sense of self, of acceptance and self-worth. The story of Samson and Delilah in Judges 16 has similar connotations, Samson’s teasing to his partner about his weaknesses only end in him squandering his great strength and losing his sense of identity and self-hood. This is only further highlighted by the tangling of the hair itself which charms away elements of his character until he is no more. However, when his hair starts to grow back, so does his identity and therefore his strength. This paper will seek to explore the intersection between Sophia’s salon and its central place and role within Litchfield prison in affirming the individual identities of the prisoners and furthermore how such relates to the story of Samson as a hero who is tempted, who loses everything, and yet through the regrowth of his hair finds himself and his identity before making the ultimate sacrifice.

Lucy Skerratt is an MA student in Biblical Studies at King’s College London (KCL). She completed her BA at the University of Leeds in Theology and Religious Studies where she focused particularly on the book of Lamentations and contemporary understandings of HIV/AIDS. Her focus at present is on sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases and sexual identity within the Hebrew Bible. She is also at present researching constructions of female masculinity in the Hebrew Bible texts, the nature of self-confession in biblical studies and contemporary understandings of ethnicity within the Hebrew Bible framework. Lucy is one of the co-organisers of Orange is the New Bible.


“The Second Time Around”: The Demand for Different in Revelation and OITNB

Michelle Fletcher

Michelle Fletcher-pola“Based on reality”—This tagline has the power to enthral and to sell, and OITNB has certainly made it clear that what we are seeing on screen is founded on real-life experiences, Piper Kerman’s 13 months stint in Danbury Federal Correctional Institute to be specific. This has lent the show a level of veracity, which despite its often white-middle-classed perspective on events, has often shielded it from criticisms surrounding its portrayal of inmate dynamics and race. Yet how much is the show actually “based” on the reality of Piper’s memoir? What gets added, mixed, and taken away in its adaption to screen? What is more, what is different as the series continues? Adaptation and sequel theory will be used to inform our reading, as we explore not only the alterations between memoir and screen but also the differences between series one and series two. This will reveal an increase in “second time around” portrayals of sex, violence, and character contextualisation. These theories of alteration and addition will then be applied to the book of Revelation in order to explore its portrayal of the image of Christ. What is it that this portrayal offers that other NT accounts do not, and what is added, mixed and altered in Christ’s adaptation to apocalypse? The paper will conclude by asking how these seemingly different examinations of alterations can inform each other, and what audiences experience when characters and situations “based on reality” are adapted, and presented in new forms.

Michelle Fletcher is currently an Associate Lecturer at the University of Kent. She did her doctoral studies at KCL, using film theory to examine the use of the Hebrew Bible in the book of Revelation. Michelle has a particular passion for bringing biblical studies into dialogue with visual media theory and for blurring the boundaries between “high” and “low” culture. Her publications cover topics such as examining Terminator’s use of the Apocalypse, Film Noir, Frankenstein films, and feminist re-readings of the New Testament.


“Best thing is to go on and let them do their business”: Religion, Rape Culture and OITNB

Katie Edwards

KatieTiffany ‘Pennsatucky’ Doggett seems to be a polarizing character for fans of the TV series Orange is the New Black. While some may find her the ‘meth-mouthed bully’ of season one (Etkin, 2015), and others criticize the show’s writers and producers, who ‘clearly got their only images of rural poor white people directly from the movie Deliverance’ (Leondar-Wright, 2013), there can be little doubt that she is central to the OITNB’s biting commentary on religion, sexual assault and cultural constructions and representations of ‘ideal’ motherhood. This paper will read Pennsatucky’s story against current debates on abortion, motherhood, religion and rape culture, to argue that class is the common theme underlying public discourse and cultural representations that consistently present women as responsible for sexual threat and violence and failure to adhere to socially accepted roles of mother and ‘carer’.

Katie Edwards is Director of the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS) and Senior Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Sheffield. Katie’s research focuses on the function, impact and influence of the Bible in contemporary popular culture with particular interest in the intersections of gender, sexualities, race and class in popular cultural reappropriations of biblical characters and narratives. Katie is currently editing the Handbook of Rape Culture, Gender Violence, and Religion (Palgrave Macmillan) with Caroline Blyth (University of Auckland) and editing the Hidden Perspectives series (Bloomsbury) with Minna Shkul (University of Sheffield).