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Routledge Focus Series

Spotlight! Chris Greenough

Routledge Focus series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Chris Greenough is author of The Bible and Sexual Violence Against Men, which was first published in 2020. He is co-director of The Shiloh Project and is currently co-editing a great deal (see below!)

How do you reflect back on writing your book? 

I wrote a lot of the book during the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic in 2020. While this was a period of general worry and anxiety for the global population, writing helped me retain a daily focus and routine. The most fruitful part of working on the book, for me, was working with Caroline Blyth, Katie Edwards and Johanna Stiebert, series co-editors at that time. All of us checked in with one another regularly, sharing life updates and things to keep our spirits up! Caroline’s feedback on the drafts was immensely helpful and certainly shaped the final product.

What has been the response to your book?

Since the publication of the book, I’ve been invited to speak about its contents, including as a keynote speaker in the Finnish Institute in Rome in 2022. I’ve spoken at the Ehrhardt seminar series at the University of Manchester, too. There’s a real interest in how the biblical text speaks back to contemporary issues around masculinity, and especially male victims of sexual violence. 

How and where are you now and what are you doing or working on at present?

I’m currently working on Bible and Violence, a comprehensive volume I’m editing with Johanna Stiebert (University of Leeds), Johnathan Jodamus (University of the Western Cape) and Mmapula Kebaneilwe (University of Botswana). It’s an ambitious project, with around 120 chapters. My own chapter in the volume focuses on how religious language, imagery and biblical texts are used in the manosphere, particularly in incel forums. I’m also editing a volume with Caroline Blyth – T&T Clark Handbook of Sexualities in the Bible and its Reception. Both are due out later this year/early 2025. 

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series?

Keep seeking feedback on your proposals and drafts – the editors are superb and generous!

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

I think a focus on violence towards LGBTQ+ people would make an important contribution, given the often tense and hostile positions from religious organisations. I touch on this in some way in my book, but a volume dedicated to this topic would be significant. 

Do you have a shout-out to anyone working in this general area? Please shout about them!

The late, great David J. Clines’ work continues to be influential in the field. Deryn Guest’s work in Beyond Feminist Biblical Studies (2012, Sheffield Phoenix) continues to give me life, especially the chapter on the critical studies of masculinities. Barbara Thiede produces some of the most powerful and punchy work I’ve read on biblical masculinities. And David Tombs’ great work on the crucifixion of Jesus as sexual abuse offers much thought and reflection for those in faith-based communities and organisations. 

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Spotlight! Barbara Thiede

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Barbara Thiede’s book has the title Rape Culture in the House of David: A Company of Men and was first published in 2022. The book focuses on the revered character of David, as well as on other characters in the biblical narrative he so dominates. Barbara’s close analysis exposes the rape cultures that are described in and which shaped the narrative. Barbara is now co-editor of the book series.

How do you reflect back on writing your book?

When I began writing, I focused on demonstrating that sexual violence against female characters was not the product of rogue “bad actors.” Rather, a company of men supported Bible’s rape culture through enabling, witnessing, and colluding in sexual violence. While writing, I realized the extent to which male-on-male sexualized violence similarly supported biblical rape culture. This realization generated a recent article on Saul as a trauma victim (“Hidden in Plain Sight: Saul’s Trauma Narrative in 1 Samuel,” Biblical Interpretation) and profoundly affected my forthcoming monograph, Yhwh’s Emotional and Sexual Life in the Books of Samuel. In that work, I analyze how the Israelite deity models the use of male-on-male sexual violence—not only against his enemies, but against his own men.

Writing Rape Culture in the House of David also helped me clarify the ways in which academe continues to repress the ethical interrogation of Bible, particularly in regard to sexual violence. The pages I devoted to the use of the terms rape and rape culture in my introduction helped me think about the ethical foundations this book series rests on. The outcome was an article, “Taking Biblical Authors at Their Word: On Scholarly Ethics, Sexual Violence, and Rape Culture in the Hebrew Bible,” which will be published in the Journal of Biblical Literature. That article is, in a way, partial payment of the debt I owe to the editors of this series for making the work we do possible. 

In short, writing for this series engendered enough ideas to keep me busy for years!

What has been the response to your book? 

The book has helped me connect with other scholars who are working on similar issues; in writing it, I began realizing that I belonged to a community.

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series – which you now co-edit?

We are engaged in an ethical project, one that can have profound impact on real human lives. There is no reason to hold back and every reason to be precise and thorough in interrogating biblical literature for the sexual violence that goes unaddressed by most of its exegetes and readers.

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

We have much to do in exploring male-on-male sexualized violence. Just as importantly, we have only begun to address the ethnic and racial elements that undergird rape culture in biblical literature and in our own time. And finally, we could ask how characters whose gendered presentations do not conform to binary expectations also become victims of brutal and sexualized violence in biblical literature.

Shout out!

I must first note the editorial work of Johanna Stiebert and Caroline Blyth in the series’ formative years. I benefited enormously from their labors on my behalf.

Every single one of the authors who have contributed to this series deserves a shout-out; they are forging pathways, creating a scholarly community, and developing a space for asking the ethical questions that must be made foundational to the academic project. I love reading their work!

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Spotlight! Miryam Clough

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Miryam’s Clough’s courageous book has the title Vocation and Violence: The Church and #MeToo. It was first published in 2022 and includes, alongside accounts of Miryam’s own experiences, data from interviews with both survivors and church leaders. The book explores the impact of clergy sexual misconduct on women’s careers and vocational aspirations in the church.

What follows are Miryam’s reflections on writing and publishing her book.

The focus of my book was a surprise to me. I was doing some quite broad research on women in the Anglican Church in New Zealand when someone referred me to Rev’d Louise Deans’ book Whistleblower, about a serial abuser and the struggle a group of women had to call him, and the church, to account. This story had come to light when a group of women met to discuss sexual harassment in the church at a conference of ordained Anglican women in 1989, the year after I left New Zealand having had a similar experience as a young ordinand. As I researched, the theme of clergy abuse kept coming up, and my book evolved from there. Revisiting that time in my life in the context of what the church was like for other women was actually a very positive experience for me, and it was helpful to assess my own experiences from a more structural perspective. It was fun delving into the archives of the John Kinder Theological Library in Auckland and especially revisiting Vashti’s Voice, a home-grown Christian feminist journal from the 1980s. The copy, produced on typewriters or by hand, hand illustrated, and duplicated on a Gestetner, brought the experiences of those women to life. It was also really useful to immerse myself in the literature on clergy abuse, which I’d not read before then. Some really seminal work in this area was done decades ago by women like Marie Fortune. The church is still catching up.

Vocation and Violence was very much a collaborative project and I’m grateful to all those who contributed to it. It is important to recognise that much of the work towards addressing sexual violence in the church is driven by survivors and takes a particular kind of courage. Bringing stories of abuse into the public arena is both potentially freeing and increases vulnerability. The stories have a way of becoming public property. They may be examined in intrusively forensic detail by church lawyers seeking to evade culpability for their client, or graphically reported by a media intent on selling their product to a prurient and scandal-hungry public. In the frenzy, the wellbeing of those involved and the structural mechanisms that facilitate abuse are often overlooked. 

Misogyny and toxic masculinity persistently exploit biblical violence to justify purity culture, complementarianism, and clericalism, promoting entitlement in some and cultivating the conditions for abuse to flourish. The fundamental problem of a male God – man made God in his own image – remains one of the central delusions of the church’s history, and the language of the church continues to support this. Here in New Zealand currently, I’ve noticed that the phrase “Father God” is repeated in some extempore prayer so often that it becomes almost the sole content of the prayer, interspersed with the odd petition. Meanwhile in wider society women are once more being subtly written out of the language and I think this will prove to be really damaging if it persists. 

I’m using a similar methodology in my third Routledge monograph on the way churches in New Zealand responded to the Ardern government’s Covid-19 Protection Framework in 2021–2022, which saw many unvaccinated Christians excluded from their church congregations and mandated out of their jobs. I’m interviewing clergy and lay people about their experiences – whether those were of working within the Framework to implement its guidelines or of being excluded by it – and aiming to give voice to a range of perspectives in the hope that, should a similar situation arise, the churches are better equipped to respond. 

The interviews worked well in Vocation and Violence. Some contributors have said they found it helpful to tell their stories and feel heard and several readers have contacted me to say they found it helpful to read stories that echoed their own experiences, and that they appreciated both the authenticity of accounts and the assessment of the theological and structural dynamics that enable and allow abuse – including theirs – to occur. Another aspect that was appreciated was that I didn’t focus on the details of abuse, which, as I’ve noted, so many public accounts do. So often, reporting of sexual violence is gratuitous and amounts to secondary abuse. One reviewer commented that the book “should be required  reading for  bishops and others in church leadership and positions of decision-making as well as for both teachers and learners in theological education and ministry training.”[1]

One area where I think a lot more work is needed is on the way the churches prevent and respond to misconduct and abuse by clergy and others in positions of power. I think we, in the church, struggle to deal with the complexities involved, and with how to disentangle subjective judgements about morality from coercive or abusive behaviour. Far too much energy goes into judging and controlling people’s intimate lives rather than into preventing abuse and discerning and dealing with it well when it does occur. I’m not sure that our Ministry Standards processes are yet really fit for purpose. 

The Routledge Focus Series on “Rape Culture, Religion, and the Bible” was a great series to write for. The editors are really hands-on, interested, encouraging, and prompt to respond to queries. If you are thinking of submitting a proposal for a volume in this series – do it! Even if you’re just at the ideas stage, you’ll get some great feedback and support. There is some fantastic work being done now on religion and rape culture, Bible and violence and I cannot recommend this series too highly!


[1] Janet Crawford, “Book Review: Vocation and Violence: The Church and #MeToo,” Anglican Journal of Theology in Aotearoa and Oceania, Vol. 1, issue 1, Spring 2022, https://www.stjohnscollege.ac.nz/journal.

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Spotlight! Saima Afzal and Johanna Stiebert

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Today’s spotlight features two authors and two books. Johanna Stiebert is book series editor and author of the inaugural volume, Rape Myths, the Bible, and #MeToo, which was published in 2020. Saima Afzal and Johanna co-authored a second volume, Marriage, Bible Violence: Intersections and Impacts, which was published in 2024. Both are active in a women-led Community Interest Company, SAS Rights, which was founded by Saima. 

How do you reflect back on writing?  

Johanna: The first book feels, in some ways, from a different time, when the MeToo movement had brought a great wave of momentum to the work Caroline Blyth, Katie Edwards and I were doing together – both as co-directors of The Shiloh Project and as initial editors of this series. It was a busy time, with unexpected success with grant capture and many new and meaningful collaborations. There was a real sense of motivation and optimism. Some of that sustains me still but I also feel a sense of ‘flatness’ some days. In the big frame, rape culture remains a tenacious presence, and the political and human rights climate, along with the climate crisis – are all cause for bleakness. In the smaller frame, both Katie and Caroline have left academia, and the world of Universities and conferences, grants, public engagement, and publishing is for me a sadder place without them. Also, I write this during stop-and-start ceasefire negotiations, amid on- and ongoing suffering, and shortly after the news broke that Harvey Weinstein’s rape conviction of 2020 has been overturned. It feels like there is an unrelenting stream of things to stand up to and speak out about.

On a positive note, the book series continues to thrive and I have two other fabulous co-editors, Barbara Thiede and Emily Colgan. Both are women I met through our shared research interests and both are not only colleagues whose work inspires me but also friends.

Collaboration is a big part of what motivates me. Working with Saima on the second book was uplifting. Saima is absolutely not someone to back down from a challenge! She has resisted and got out of a forced ‘marriage’, has raised a child on her own into a most wonderful adult, gets up and shows up every day, in spite of exhausting cancer treatment, and is a tireless advocate and campaigner for many, many under- and unrepresented and marginalised members in her community. I have so much admiration for Saima. 

Our co-authored book focuses on the many and strong associations between marriage and violence in the Bible. It also challenges complementarian theologies that oppress and demean women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. For me, this is my second co-authored book (the other is Sacred Queer Stories, 2021) and I have really enjoyed how energising and inspiring collaboration with Saima is!

Saima: Writing a book with Johanna was an amazing experience where I could indulge my inquisitiveness in critical thinking. It is fantastic to work with peers who are there to help develop and enhance your ideas and perspectives, to let you ask questions and nurture mutual knowledge-sharing and -acquisition towards publication. Co-authoring a book is something I never thought I’d do. It’s been a real privilege to share my experiences, capture them in writing, and put them on printed pages to go out into the world. It takes away some of the insults I’ve had levelled at me, of having the community and activist work I do trivialised and dismissed, or being told my own or the experiences of women I work alongside are ‘merely anecdotal’. This series shows that victims of gender-based and sexual violence (many of them women) are silenced by a complex array of religio-cultural dynamics. Our book has tried to demonstrate and to resist this. 

Normally I deal with such issues as part of my work as an expert registered on the National Crime Agency register. I am called by the Crown Prosecution Service, or by police forces, for example, to assist in investigations, examine statements, and provide the courts with detailed reports to help them decide on the innocence or guilt of an accused. With such work, it’s often too late: a crime has occurred, victims are in crisis, justice can be slow in coming, or inadequate; often, quite honestly, there is no opportunity for release or expression, and no justice at all. 

What the book has allowed me to do is apply some of my training and experience to better understand and prevent violence before it happens. Just maybe, if we know more about the silences and oppressions imposed by religio-cultural forces, then we can do more pre-crisis. This is what motivates my work with SAS Rights. We are trying to build the micro-infrastructure so there are safe spaces in our communities where we remove the stigma of rape and sexual abuse, including when it is silenced or legitimised through the institution of marriage. 

What has been the response to your book? 

Saima: The response has been a mix of the positive to the ‘oh really, you wrote about this?!’ and then quickly moving on to another topic. The response amongst my peers in the policing world, most of whom are not in my immediate local community, has been extremely positive, and I have received multiple requests to expand on the religio-cultural dynamics that are discussed in the book. The book shows that religious texts and laws emerged from particular contexts and are now shifted into very different settings where they continue to exert influence. Many practitioners recognise the need for understanding such dynamics better – not least, because they still have bearing on the discussions in religious communities that centre on topics in the orbit of marriage – like conjugal rights, consent, gender and family hierarchies. There is definitely interest in the book in sectors that are not primarily academic – like the practitioners I work with (police officers, community and social workers, for instance). Also, these are busy people – so they are happy to see our book is tightly focused and succinct. 

Interestingly, in my immediate, local community, professionals and institutions have not really acknowledged my achievements, including the book. Maybe this is because I am considered a non-conformist woman, and because reliance on traditional patriarchal structures remains, including in matters of marriage and divorce. That is disappointing – but it spurs me on, because there is still work to be done. 

Johanna: It is still a bit early for published reviews. It is good to see, though, that the topic of our book is clearly one that’s ‘in the air’. Jennifer G. Bird’s book Marriage in the Bible: What Do the Texts Say? (Rowman and Littlefield, Dec. 2023) came out around the time ours did. I can also reveal that two more books in the series are soon to appear and both have areas of overlap and synergy with our book. One is on coercive control and another is focused on marriage equality. 

How and where are you now and what are you doing or working on at present? 

Saima: I have ongoing cancer-related issues, which makes work hard at times. Locally, I am working on a number of cases through my policing work, as well as, mostly in a volunteer capacity, on amplifying minoritised women’s voices and on designing equitable and trauma-informed services that factor in religio-cultural dimensions. SAS Rights services (ranging from bicycle riding lessons and group bicycle rides, to counselling, advocacy, arts and crafts and Zumba for women in the Blackburn region) are in high demand, so fundraising to fund and subsidise these is a critical part of what I am currently focusing on. This ensures that no one who needs our services is left out. 

Johanna: It is nearing the end of the semester and another academic year. This is always a busy time. Editing has been a big part of my work of late. Alongside editing for this series, I am also co-editor (with Chris Greenough, Johnathan Jodamus and Mmapula Kebaneilwe) of a massive Bible and Violence publication, under contract with Bloomsbury. Some days it can feel all-consuming.

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series?

Saima: Make time for friendships, including in the work you do. Nurture patience and perseverance, and don’t be too precious about ditching some of your writing along the way if it just doesn’t fit the remit of the book. None of that’s a waste – it’s part of the process. (I wrote so much and probably have another book I could publish!!)

Johanna: What Saima says! Also, we try hard as editors to support our authors along the way. We know writing a book is not easy and that in the expanse of time it takes, between the proposal and manuscript submission, a lot can happen to interfere with writing and deadlines, or to transform and change initial plans and intentions.

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on? 

Saima: I really wish there was more literature that discusses together all of conjugal rights, sharia law, marriage and rape. There is a great deal of reluctance to talk about such subjects, and too much is hushed up because it is ‘a cultural issue’. What I see is that religious leaders across faiths have a great deal of influence but they don’t often encourage critical thinking or alternative viewpoints. But I do think we need a deeper discussion. I have been confronted with such topics again and again in my over thirty years of community work and I would love to see careful research and exposition in this area. 

Johanna: There are some proposals and books-in-progress in the series that focus on lived religion and on sacred texts other than the Bible vis-à-vis rape culture manifestations. I welcome that. I have a lot to learn on how differently rape culture manifests in other religious communities and literatures in and from diverse parts of the world. I would also like to see books focused on neurodiversity and on disability studies to open up perspectives on rape culture that we don’t hear about nearly enough.

Do you have a shout-out to anyone working in this general area? Please shout about them! 

Saima: I always shout about my mum, she moulded me into the critical thinker I am. Without Mum I would have not survived the ‘community-based’ sanctions (mainly exclusion and slander about my personal life and non-conformism) that have been imposed upon me over the years. Mum is my biggest ally. I also am thankful for my son, for putting up with the fall-out that comes with having a mother like me. My granddaughter, is the biggest reason I keep speaking about these issues; I do not wish for her to grow up in a world where she can’t as a girl or woman be free to be herself or choose the relationship she wants. I need her to be growing up in a better world free from violence.

Johanna: There are many. There is great work happening in this area. Most recently, I’ve really valued and admired the scholarship on violence against displaced women and girls by Sandra Iman Pertek. Her book with Elisabet le Roux, On the Significance of Religion in Violence Against Women and Girls (Routledge, 2023) is open access and superb. 

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Spotlight! Ericka S. Dunbar

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Ericka S. Dunbar’s book in the series is Trafficking Hadassah: Collective Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and in the African Diaspora. It was first published in 2022 and is one of our best sellers. The book expounds how Africana female bodies have been and continue to be colonized and sexualized, as well as exploited for profit and pleasure. It shows how this contributes to adverse physical, mental, sexual, socio-cultural, and spiritual consequences for girls and women, and links present-day systemic violence to the canonised template in the book of Esther. 

How do you reflect back on writing your book? 

Writing my book was a process that I deeply value and appreciate. Publishing this book felt like a full circle moment. The topic is one that I started researching and writing about in seminary. I didn’t imagine then that I’d go on to do PhD work and that my senior project would inspire my dissertation, but that’s my story. The process allowed me to explore questions that had been with me since I was a little girl and to amplify the voices of women who taught me about sexual exploitation, rape culture, and intersectionality from their lived experiences. They transformed how I understood and interacted with the biblical text, so I was honored to share the impact of my engagement with these brave and resilient women with the world.

What has been the response to your book?

Extremely positive. I am pleasantly surprised that it was as well received in church settings as it has been in the academy. One of the most meaningful experiences I have had was people disclosing that the book gave them the courage to tell their own stories and inspired them to do more to transform rape cultures. 

How and where are you now and what are you doing or working on at present?

I am well. I am an Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament at Baylor University (Waco, Texas, USA). I am currently working on a book on migration in the Bible. I recently offered a keynote at a Migration and Food Needs Symposium where I assessed a few stories in the Hebrew Bible that depict a nexus between food insecurity and migration. These stories illuminate that there are benefits and negative consequences of migration. Moreover, an intersectional lens exposes that not everyone experiences migration and food insecurity in the same way, or to the same extent, and that women often experience disproportionately negative physiological and psychological consequences because of migration. Again, these consequences intersect with food insecurity and with rape culture (such as when they result from being trafficked and sexually exploited in order to resolve food insecurity). 

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series?

The world needs to encounter your voice and unique engagement with religion and the Bible. Do the work! It’s a rewarding experience to publish a book that works towards transforming toxic cultures. 

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

Perhaps a book on eunuchs and sexual exploitation.

Do you have a shout-out to anyone working in this general area? Please shout about them!

Rhiannon Graybill. I appreciate her latest monograph, Texts After Terror: Rape, Sexual Violence, and the Hebrew Bible. 

Ericka’s book is available from Routledge. It is out in paperback. Like the eBook version, this costs just under £16. 

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Spotlight! Joachim Kügler

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Joachim is Professor of New Testament at the University of Bamberg in Germany, as well as an ordained priest of the Catholic Church. His book in the series is Zeus Syndrome: A Very Short History of Religion-Based Masculine Domination, which was first published in 2023. It is a fabulous one-of-a-kind book that begins with the MeToo movement and the abuse of religious power in the Catholic Church, and then presents a concise selection of ancient case studies that illuminate and account for some of the reasons why rape culture today looks the way it does. The book demonstrates how a specific construction of the relationship between sex/gender, power and religion not only excludes women and every other person conceived as feminine or effeminate from power but also produces – almost automatically – a rape culture that uses and excuses violent sexuality as an appropriate manifestation of masculine power. Joachim constructs what he calls here ‘the Zeus Syndrome’ and draws examples from Egyptian, Hebrew, Greek and Roman worlds and texts. It’s such an invigorating read!

How do you reflect back on writing your book? 

It was a great adventure – not least, because I had never written a complete book in English before. Furthermore, it was a challenge, as the topic of masculine domination involves my self (including my roles as professor and priest) and my self-understanding as a man.

What has been the response to your book?

Although I wrote mostly about men and the question of masculinity, most responses have come from women. Those who have contacted me directly love the book and cherish it as enlightening and liberative. 

How and where are you now and what are you doing or working on at present?

I am still at the University of Bamberg, working in New Testament studies and on the Bible in Africa studies project (which I co-founded in 2009). My retirement is around the corner, and I am happy that my successor will be a female scholar of high reputation.

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series?

Not really much. Everyone has to find their own way. It is important with a series topic like this (rape culture and religion) not to shy away from getting your self involved and to let yourself be challenged. 

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

I would like to see a book on the images of Christ as rapist in Revelation and on their biblical prototypes in prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible. [Johanna: Joachim has just explored some dimensions of this topic in his chapter on the book of Revelation for Bible and Violence (forthcoming with Bloomsbury).]

Do you have a shout-out to anyone working in this general area? Please shout about them!

Maybe Canisius Mwanday could write about the distressing topic of abuse of female bodies and corpses and how the Bible has functioned in such abuse. It is a shocking topic but one we should not ignore. 

[Johanna: Canisius Mwanday: if you are interested in proposing a book for the series, please get in touch.]

Joachim’s book is available from Routledge. It is soon to appear in paperback. Like the eBook version, this will cost just under £16. 

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Spotlight! Caroline Blyth

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Caroline is one of the founding directors of The Shiloh Project as well as one of the original editors of this Routledge Focus series. Her book in the series is Rape Culture, Purity Culture, and Coercive Control in Teen Girl Bibles. First published in 2021, it takes a rigorous look at some of the Bibles marketed specifically to teen girls and probes how they perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes that lie at the heart of rape culture.

How do you reflect back on writing your book? 

I did most of the work for my book during the first COVID lockdown. Sitting in my flat, day after day, poring over these teen girl Bibles while the pandemic unravelled is an experience I’ll neither forget nor look back on with any fondness. 

When I began researching teen girl Bibles, I had no idea where they would lead me. I had initially planned to write about their editorial commentary on gender-based violence in the biblical texts and the ways in which this might intersect with Christian purity discourse. But when I sat down and took a closer look at the commentary and editorial notes that are generously peppered throughout the Bibles, I realized that these were far more insidious than I’d initially imagined. It gradually dawned on me that, wittingly or not, they utilized tactics of coercive control to shame, demean, and gaslight their intended audience of teenage girls. It made me angry, frustrated, and motivated to action all at the same time, with the result that the book took on a snarkier and more biting critical tone than I’d originally anticipated.

How and where are you now and what are you doing or working on at present?

I’m still living in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I divide my time between my work (I’m a freelance editor and proofreader) and my writing (both fiction and non-fiction). My recent projects have included writing and recording season 2 of the Bloody Bible podcast (which I co-host with my partner-in-crime, Dr Emily Colgan) and doing further research into gender-based violence in the biblical texts and contemporary true crime narratives (which Emily and I hope to incorporate into a book based on the podcast). I’m also in the midst of co-editing a handbook on sexualities in the Bible and its reception history with my friend and colleague Dr Chris Greenough. In terms of my non-academic work, my (unpublished) novel, Sins of Commission, was recently shortlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award, which has inspired me to keep writing fiction.

Do you have any advice for authors of future publications in this series?

My main piece of advice is to follow your passion. Write about what makes you mad—write about whatever you know needs to be radically changed in order to make the world a more equitable and safer place. Also, make your writing as accessible as possible for readers from all walks of life. It’s so important that we work together to get the message out that rape culture, intimate partner violence, and coercive control NEED TO STOP. 

What topics in the area of rape culture, religion and/or the Bible would you like to see a book on?

I would love to see more books that centre on the experiences of people in the Global South and how they navigate rape culture, religion, and the Bible in postcolonial contexts. Nancy Tan’s brilliant book in the Routledge Focus series, Resisting Rape Culture, does this so well, and it’s important that we see more publications which centre on contexts beyond Europe and the United States, including works by Indigenous and First Nations scholars. I would also strongly welcome further studies that critique the toxic ideology of Christian purity culture—the research I did for my book on teen girl Bibles really drove home to me just how dangerous and harmful this discourse is. It deserves to be thoroughly resisted, challenged, and dismantled. The more people involved in this endeavour, the better.

Do you have a shout-out to anyone working in this general area? Please shout about them!

I have to give a shout-out to my dear friend and co-conspirator Dr Emily Colgan. Emily’s research on evangelical “self-help” literature was so impactful for me, and it inspired me to write my Routledge Focus book. Emily is whip smart, tireless, fierce, and a real shero of mine, so it’s a massive privilege to be working with her on our current crime-based project. We are also forever bonded by our shared ambition to open a private detective agency together and our mutual appreciation of Negroni cocktails.

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See also earlier Shiloh posts by and about Caroline, including this post about the Shiloh Project’s first five years. Caroline’s book is available from Routledge. The paperback and eBook versions cost just under £16.

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Spotlight! Nancy Nam Hoon Tan

Routledge Focus Series: Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible

Nancy’s book Resisting Rape Culture: The Hebrew Bible and Hong Kong Sex Workers was first published in 2021. It focuses on Nancy’s experience of reading biblical texts (Genesis 38, 1 Kings 3 and Hosea 1–3) together with sex workers in Hong Kong. This book shatters harrowing rape myths – such as that sex workers can’t get raped or that sex workers are deserving of sexual violence. It also shows how the uncritical reading of biblical texts contributes to stigmatization of and discrimination against sex workers up to the present. 

How do you look back on your experience of writing and publishing this book?

I am still thankful, and I feel honoured for the opportunity to contribute to this series. I enjoyed the whole process of researching, interviewing, and writing out the chapters and would do it all again without regrets. But this experience could only be so positive because of all the wonderful persons who have encouraged and supported me, including those involved in the Shiloh Project and book series – so thank you! I am also thoroughly grateful for people who have emailed me and shown appreciation for my work.

Resisting Rape Culture book cover by Nancy Nam Hoon Tan.

[Nancy retired from her academic post in biblical studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is now living again in her home country of Singapore.]

What are you doing now?

I am working as Care Programme Coordinator at an Ageing Day Care Centre. My main duty is to plan and run programmes for seniors. The picture of me was taken while I was coordinating the dog therapy programme for seniors. 

Last month, on March 8th 2024, during the daily “News chat” session, a colleague announced in English that it was International Women’s Day. The local colleague who was translating into Mandarin, added – “well, we…” (she did not specify who) “…don’t like to celebrate 三八 …” [pronounced shanba]. This term can (and should in this case) refer to the date (namely, three/eight) but she used the intonation and emphasis in the Hokkien dialect for the phrase 山巴  – which is a derogative adjective referring to someone or to the state of being “from the mountains,” or being rural and therefore (by implication) “not civilized”. Unfortunately, this is how most of the locals like to make fun of this day, saying that it’s the day the dominant female or “women with iron fists” have their way! It’s demeaning and trivializing. 

But before she completed the sentence, I quickly ran to the front and asked my colleague politely if I might have the microphone to explain. Thankfully, she willingly passed the microphone to me. 

And so I explained: “Today is a special day to celebrate all women, commemorating the efforts of our foremothers who struggled so that we – us – all women today can have our rights to proper education, same as men; we can go to the same school as the boys; sit together in the same classroom and next to them; compete with them fairly, win our scholarships and attend universities and ask questions in classes without prejudice. We celebrate today’s women – our daughters and grand-daughters and great grand-daughters – who can now have the same rights to be doctors, lawyers, artists – to be anyone they aspire to be; and earn the same salaries as men are paid. We celebrate today because women in Singapore today have the same rights as men to healthcare services – that is, hospitals and clinics do not attend to men first but we women are treated fairly – regardless of our gender. We celebrate today because Singapore women have the right to cast their vote for whom they want to represent them in their districts and the country. Today women all over the world celebrate 三八 because many women in other countries have yet to live this day like we can in Singapore today.” 

A few of the female seniors started to shout “Yay!” and clapped, then the rest followed. My female colleague turned to me and said, “Oh my, thank you Nancy for all this. It is a worthy day to celebrate indeed!” 

Have you got any words for future contributors? And are there any topics you’d like a book in the series to focus on?

I only want to encourage – Your perspective is going to be of great significance to someone. Please don’t give up! 

I would like to see a book on therapy/ies for victims and perpetrators in rape cultures – in particular, a book that focuses on the ageing population. How do we envision gender justice for this demographic?


Do you have a shout-out for anyone?

Jessica Cho Hiu Tong – you have inspired me to think about therapies – so we are looking forward to your piece!  

[Jessica Cho Hiu Tong is Executive Secretary of the Hong Kong Christian Council. She endeavours to eliminate sexual harassment and other rape culture manifestations in church settings and beyond. Jessica is in the process of preparing a proposal for the series.]

See also the earlier Shiloh post, a Q&A with Nancy on the publication of her book. Nancy’s book is available from Routledge. The paperback and eBook versions cost £15.19.

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