close

Teaching Resources

Announcing AHRC Grant Success 

The Shiloh Project Will Be Involved in a Large Grant Focused on Spiritual Abuse

Co-director Johanna is part of a team that has been awarded a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for a two-and-a-half year research project on Abuse in Religious Settings. Johanna is one of three Co-Investigators, and the project is led by Gordon Lynch (University of Kent). It will bring together an experienced team of academics, professional practitioners, and people involved in support and advocacy work with survivors, and will work closely with survivors as co-producers of new insights and resources.

Abuse in Religious Settings will involve a series of connected pieces of work examining theological, organisational, and textual issues, how safeguarding professionals and faith communities work with each other, and what relevant legal and policy frameworks have been developed in different countries. It will also work with survivors to learn from their insights about the meanings that abuse in religious contexts can have, as well as what can support resilience.

Johanna’s focus builds on her work in activist uses of biblical texts and with The Shiloh Project. 

The project will be structured around seven main pieces of work, with cross-cutting themes and issues between them also being studied: 

  1. Abuse and the cultures and structures of religious organisations (literature-based study led by Gordon Lynch). 
  2. Abuse in new religious movements: forms and organisational responses (secondary data analysis led by Sarah Harvey).
  3. The role of religious texts in relation to abuse (workshop-based study led by Johanna Stiebert). This will also include the production of more Shiloh Podcast episodes with the fabulous Rosie Dawson.
  4. International comparisons of legal and policy frameworks in relation to safeguarding and abuse in religious settings (review led by Richard Scorer).
  5. Exploring relationships between faith communities and safeguarding professionals in statutory bodies (survey and interview-based study led by Justin Humphreys).
  6. Survivor responses and resilience to abuse in religious settings (interview-based study led by Linda Woodhead and Jo Kind). 
  7. Disclosures and non-disclosures of abuse (photo-elicitation study led by Lisa Oakley).

In addition, the project will also involve activities and events which will build new relationships between individuals and groups working in this field, both within the United Kingdom and internationally. 

If you are interested in possibly contributing to and participating in Johanna’s workshops and podcast episodes (which are still in the early planning stages), please contact Johanna directly: j.stiebert@leeds.ac.uk

Workshops and podcast episodes will focus on religious texts from a range of religious traditions – not only on the Bible, Jewish or Christian traditions. We welcome postgraduates, practitioners, religious and community leaders, academics and activists working in the area of spiritual abuse and religious texts and contexts.

The project will formally begin with an initial consultation phase in March 2022, with the main research activities beginning in the autumn of 2022. Outcomes from the project are expected to be released by the spring and summer of 2024.

For more information and regular updates about the project, please visit the project website: Abuse in Religious Settings – Research at Kent

read more

16 Days of Celebrating Activism… Shiloh’s Routledge Focus series!

Today we celebrate our Routledge Focus book series. The Shiloh Project was the inspiration for the series and the series title—‘Rape Culture, Religion and the Bible’—is the same as the sub-title for the Shiloh Project. 

Routledge Focus volumes are concise, no more than 50,000 words in length. Each volume In our series, consequently, is sharply focused. Each represents research-based activism on a theme within the orbit of religion and rape culture. While unified by this larger theme and purpose, the published and forthcoming volumes evidence considerable variety.

We endeavour to publish around three volumes per year. This year, two volumes appeared and a third is due out in January. (The publication of the third volume was delayed on account of its sensitive content, which had to be carefully vetted by Routledge’s legal team—more on that shortly.)

The first series volume of 2021 is by Shiloh co-director Caroline Blyth (profiled as one of our 2017 activists). The title of her volume is Rape Culture, Purity Culture, and Coercive Control in Teen Girl Bibles. Caroline examines several bibles marketed to teen girls and demonstrates how they perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes including rape myths at the heart of rape culture. It’s a searing read that will have you questioning how on earth such publications can justify their claims of helping young women grow in faith, hope and love. Caroline demonstrates the damage perpetuated by purity cultures, and systematically peels back how some teen girl bibles echo or affirm the strategies of coercively controlling parents or intimate partners. It’s brilliantly done. (To hear Caroline talk about her book in an episode of the Shiloh Podcast, see here.)

Excerpt from p.3 of Caroline’s book

The second series volume of 2021 is Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar’s Trafficking Hadassah: Collective Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and in the African Diaspora. Ericka’s book identifies the enterprise of rounding up girls from across the empire for the Persian king’s harem, as constituting sexual trafficking on a huge scale. After refuting claims that this is some light-hearted biblical story about a beauty contest, Ericka highlights parallels between sex trafficking in the book of Esther and the cultural memories, histories, and materialized pain of African(a) girls and women during the Maafa, or slave trade. The book is a powerful call, both to responsible Bible reading and to action in the face of human rights violation. (Ericka, too, is featured on the Shiloh Podcast: hear Ericka talking about her book here. For a short Q&A with Ericka, see here.)

‘Slavery’, by quadelirus (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 and available @CreativeCommons)

The third volume has a publication date of 18 January 2022 and is available for pre-order now. This one is by Miryam Clough and has the title Vocation and Violence: The Church and #MeToo. Miryam’s book begins by pointing out that sexual violence is systemic in many workplace settings, including in Christian churches. From here, she focuses on how, among many other devastating consequences, this can destroy women’s careers and vocational aspirations. Because Miryam’s study draws on empirical evidence, including personal stories from survivors of clergy abuse, it required scrutiny by the Routledge legal team. The book is an intense and often painful exposition of clergy sexual abuse of adult women, the conditions that support it, and the pain left in its wake. Bringing testimony into dialogue with theoretical perspectives, the book also makes constructive suggestions for theological models that can heal a broken Church.

‘Devil and Praying Women’, Linde Church, Gotland (from CreativeCommons)

We are delighted with the seven published series titles and excited about the further six that are under contract and due for release over the next two years. 

The volumes are making a timely and important contribution to scholarship on sexual and gender-based violence in religious texts and contexts. They are also ideal for teaching, given their compactness and their availability in affordable e-book format. 

If you, or someone you know, is interested in publishing in our series, please contact series co-editor Johanna (j.stiebert@leeds.ac.uk). Volumes for the series can be sole-authored, co-authored, or edited collections of essays. Proposals are peer-reviewed, and manuscripts must meet Routledge’s criteria for academic rigour and marketability. Routledge prides itself on a prompt production process and on being in the forefront of publishing cutting-edge research. All volumes are copy edited to a very high standard. Titles appear first in hardback and e-version and, sometimes, later, in paperback, too.

We’d love to hear from prospective contributing authors, and also, from anyone with feedback on volumes in the series, or on topics you’d like to see represented.

read more

Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean – New Book!

Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean

Sara Parks, Shayna Sheinfeld and Meredith J. C. Warren have a new book, Jewish and Christian Women in the Ancient Mediterranean. It is an engaging and accessible textbook that provides an introduction to the study of ancient Jewish and Christian women in their Hellenistic and Roman contexts. The book has a virtual launch on the 13th December, and those interested in finding out more can register here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/book-launch-jewish-and-christian-women-in-the-ancient-mediterranean-tickets-204368731377 We caught up with them to ask them to find out more.

Congratulations on your new book! Thank you for taking the time to be part of our interview.

Thank you for letting us tell you more about it! This is something that we’ve developed in collaboration over many years of research and feedback from our students, and we really believe it will be a warmly welcomed resource in a broad range of classrooms and communities.

Tell us about yourselves. How does your book relate to your work as a whole and how did this book come about?

Sara Parks is Assistant Professor in Biblical Studies (New Testament) at Dublin City University, Ireland. Sara’s recent book Gender in the Rhetoric of Jesus: Women in Q argues that Jesus’ earliest sayings point to a respect towards women in varieties of early Judaism, which eroded as Christianity developed. Sara just finished a Leverhulme working on the intersection of misogyny and anti-Judaism in early Christianity.

Shayna Sheinfeld is currently a Fellow at the Frankel Institute for Judaic Studies, University of Michigan, USA. She’s working on a book called Big Tent Judaism that examines diversity in Jewish leadership by challenging androcentric ideas of authority in both ancient sources and contemporary scholarship; she includes women, enslaved, and other marginalised people, as well as marginalised sources, in her work. She has also organised two conferences on gender in antiquity through the Enoch Seminar, one volume of which was recently published as Gender and Second-Temple Judaism.

Meredith Warren is Senior Lecturer at the University of Sheffield, UK, where she is Director of the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies and editor in chief of the open-access Journal for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies. She has written often on food and taste in antiquity, for example, her 2020 book Food and Transformation in Ancient Mediterranean. She has also written about Rape Culture and Revelation for both an academic audience and for the Shiloh Project blog and the #SheToo podcast, and is working on an article on slut shaming the Samaritan Woman.

So we are all working on different aspects of gender and ancient Mediterranean religion, especially early Judaism and early Christianity. But the book really started almost 10 years ago, when we were all graduate students together. Sara had pitched a module called “Reading Women in Greco-Roman Judaism and Early Christianity,” not expecting it to be accepted because there were so many post-grads and only one or two teaching slots per year. But the module was approved! Together we pooled our collective expertise in Greek and Roman religions, the early Jesus movement, early Jewish literature and religion, and later antiquity. Our powers combined resulted in a really great class and we got invited to teach it again the next year. We’ve all been teaching versions of it whenever we can ever since. But setting it up those first years was really difficult because there were no text books or set readings then, just sourcebooks, and these were too compartmentalised, treating either Judaism or Christianity or Greek and Roman religions. We had to compile our own collection of sources, activities, and readings about method and gender, basically from scratch.

Then in 2015 we were all attending the SBL in Atlanta, and Meredith was approached by Routledge Press asking about her future book projects. Instead of mentioning her own next monograph ideas, Meredith was suddenly inspired to pitch a co-authored textbook on ancient women, with Sara and Shayna (which was a surprise not only to them, but to Meredith herself)! We had a contract not long after, and we likely would have had the book done a bit sooner if we hadn’t had a couple of other monographs and a pandemic in the meantime.

The origins of the textbook in a spirit of collaboration stuck with us as we completed it. Shayna managed to get some money to hire student research assistants at one point, and she used them for our book rather than her own research; Sara used some of the Leverhulme funding to hire an indexer for it; and Meredith used some research funding from Sheffield to hire a PhD student to work on the images and copyrights. The only reason this book exists is because we did our best to reject the isolation and competition that is so typical in academia, and instead to be conscious of trying to create a collaborative community, not just with each other, but on down the line. Each of those decisions—to share rather than hoard whenever we’ve gotten a leg up—is now going to result in a wonderful teaching resource.

What are the key goals of this book?

We had a few main goals, aside from creating a resource for teaching about women and gender in ancient religion. We also wanted to approach the question of methodology directly in the introductory chapters. This arose from our own experiences where none of us was exposed to using theory or made to articulate our own methods until late undergraduate or even Masters work. We wanted to be deliberate about promoting conscious use of methods as early as possible, which is how we teach. So we set out to include a variety of approaches, in an accessible way, up-front, and then give students examples and chances to practice them in every subsequent chapter. This is part of our aim of decentralising the historical-critical method as the only way to do proper scholarship, which some people maintain. We wanted people to see it instead as just one tool in a big toolbox with lots of other ways of learning about antiquity and interpreting textual and material evidence.

We included methods from a variety of fields because we wanted the textbook to be interdisciplinary, and readily usable for colleagues in a number of disciplines. This resource is not only meant for theology or biblical studies departments; it’s for any department within arts and humanities. We’ve designed it so there’s no previous knowledge of the time-period or of gender theory required. We wanted it to be not only accessible to students, but also to diverse instructors.

Another thing that is really important in all our work is to treat Judaism, Christianity, and ‘pagan’ women together, rather than tidily separate from one another, as if everyone weren’t mixing and talking to each other in antiquity. When we treat, for instance, female protagonists of novels, women rulers, or women religious leaders, we don’t separate them out using anachronistic concepts based on contemporary canons and categories, but instead divide them by other types of proximity, whether geographical, temporal, or generic. We always want to help our readers see just how blurry the boundaries are, perhaps especially where someone has tried really hard to draw a firm line between things.

What ideas emerge in the book that will be of particular interest to Shiloh readers?

We do talk about sexual violence and rape culture in the book (with ‘difficult topic flags’), and cover sexual violence against men as well, using some research by Shiloh Project members. We also approach the material in the book in a way that I think will resonate with a lot of Shiloh readers. We try to take an intersectional approach, and encourage our readers, and in particular any students using the textbook, to practice looking out for the multiple ways that power, gender, status, and race intersect in the evidence we have from antiquity. We use the Samaritan woman in John 4 as a recurring example to demonstrate how various methods might be used, from Marxist to queer to post-colonial criticism, encouraging people to think about women’s lives and gender as social construct in a way that isn’t isolating and that is reflective of the multiple facets of ancient (and contemporary!) identities. We include examples of non-binary figures from antiquity where we can, from rabbinic discussions of six different genders and Greco-Roman ‘one gender’ (rather than binary) models, to the figure of the Gallus priest in Roman religion, to the common idea found in antiquity of women ‘becoming men.’

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

 We hope they will appreciate just how diverse religion in antiquity was, and how many different ways there were to participate in religion. We hope readers will see the interrelatedness of Judaism, Christianity, and other religions of the ancient Mediterranean, and see how common trends, for example in types of leadership options for women, changed in sync over the period. We want our readers to think more broadly about where they look for evidence–not only in canons, and not only in written texts–and to pay more attention to marginalised experiences wherever we can find them in antiquity. We want them to imagine alternatives to the normative expectations of elite men from the various traditions. We also want readers to feel enabled to think directly and speak explicitly about their positionality and their use of methodology to approach their own research, and to perhaps apply the methods we explore in the book to other corpora, other time periods, and other geographies.

Give us one quotation from your book that you think will make readers want to go and read the rest.

P 232: Some texts and artefacts (like coins) from the ancient world include descriptions of sexual violence when they use symbolic women to “think with.” Sexual violence against these women-as-symbols acts as a means of reinforcing what the author is presenting as “correct” behaviour. The authors either use the image as a trope to describe misbehaviour being “punished” (sexually, and by a man), or they picture the violent acts to illustrate one entity’s submission to another (using a female symbol of submission and a male symbol of authority). When such texts fall within biblical canons, they pose a problem for people who hold that canon as sacred; responsible and ethical interpreters of scripture ask whether these texts condone—or even encourage—sexual assault and gendered violence. One might think that a fictional Babylon pictured as whore, or a fictional nation of Israel portrayed as an unfaithful wife, are obviously not “real women,” and therefore using violent imagery against them is acceptable as it is only being done symbolically. This view misses several important points. Just because these women might be literary fictions and “flat” characters with which ancient authors are tackling other issues doesn’t mean that the choice of women as the “sinners” and sexual violence as their “punishment” has any less impact on ancient and contemporary readers. In fact, the choice of these literary symbols tells us dreadful things about the ancient societies where these narratives took shape, as well as—importantly—those groups that up to today continue to adopt, use, or accept such literary representations without questioning them.

Plus the activity box that accompanies this section:

read more

Teaching about sexual violence in digital learning environments

Today’s post is by Dr Samantha Keene and Professor Jan Jordan, who both teach criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Given New Zealand’s sudden shift to a hard lockdown this week, their post couldn’t be more timely. And with the continued use of online and blended learning in higher education institutions globally, we are sure many of our readers will find their reflections valuable.

Teaching about sexual violence in digital learning environments

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the higher education landscape. Widespread lockdowns have seen academic staff forced to rapidly pivot their face-to-face teaching to online modes, often with little preparation and/or training in digital pedagogy. The perceived ‘success’ of academics’ tireless transition to online delivery modes may see these ways of delivery becoming a permanent fixture on university course offerings. Thinking ahead, then, this commentary provides reflexive insights into our experiences delivering a final-year undergraduate criminology paper, titled ‘Sexual Violence’, in an online learning environment during COVID-19. Shifting from face-to-face to online teaching brings unique challenges, and it is important for academic staff to identify and share the diversity of resources, tools and best practices we employ in our teaching to overcome these hurdles (Danis, 2016). It is our hope that sharing the concerns we had about delivering this paper digitally, as well as the strategies we employed to do it, will be of benefit to others teaching sensitive material in online learning environments.  

As COVID-19 cases exploded internationally, Aotearoa/New Zealand adopted a ‘go hard, go early’ strategy to halt the spread of the virus (Baker et al, 2020, p. 198). On 25 March 2020, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a State of National Emergency and imposed a strict nationwide lockdown that placed all non-essential workers in self-isolation. The lockdown announcement was unprecedented, and in response, our institution required all courses to be shifted to online delivery.

Designing courses for online delivery is not something that occurs overnight; rather, it requires substantial consideration and preparation, making the task more ‘frontloaded’ than face-to-face teaching (Danis, 2016, p. 1477). Online teaching requires a minimum level of technological ability and skill, and educators must also learn and und­­­erstand the social dynamics of digital learning and teaching in their new online classrooms. Haggerty acknowledges that the onus on academics to establish and maintain their presence in their online classrooms ‘is often the one aspect of online learning that academics are most concerned about in regard to the time it takes to provide a quality, facilitated learning environment’ (2015, p. 197). The requirement for faculty staff to immediately shift our teaching online, then, was a daunting prospect.

As criminologists, we were particularly apprehensive about the prospect of teaching online due to the sensitive nature of much of our course content. Students in criminology classes are regularly exposed to material that can be challenging, sensitive and/or distressing (Whitehead & Parker, 2017). Teachers of criminology courses, therefore, have a moral duty to adopt an ethics of care in teaching that minimises possible student distress following exposure to course content (Dalton, 2010). This ethics of care for students in our courses predates the pandemic. 

In one of our courses (CRIM324: Sexual Violence), we situate critical examinations of sexual violence within a broader sociocultural landscape of patriarchy, gender inequality and rape culture. The topics include justice system revictimization of victim/survivors, women’s objectification through pornography, and technologically facilitated sexual violence. In reflecting a feminist commitment to hearing the voices of women who are often silenced, we also include case studies and qualitative material as complements to academic research. We attend to issues of both victimisation and resistance in our teaching for the course, thereby allowing us to view women ‘not just as vulnerable victims but as strong and agentic – even when they suffer violence’ (Hollander, 2016, p. 87). We also recognise and include material on masculinity and male sexual victimisation, as well as on ways to involve those of all gender identities in rape prevention.

In this course, we endeavour to foster a learning environment that is safe, empathetic, supportive and validating of victim/survivors of sexual violence. In recognition of the chronically high rates of sexual violence in Aotearoa/New Zealand, and the subsequent number of students in the course who will have lived experience of trauma, it is important that we are proactive about centring the needs of victim/survivors in our teaching from the beginning (Bedera, 2021). As instructors, we do this in several ways. In our first lecture, we directly acknowledge the presence of victim/survivors in the classroom and we explicitly validate their experiences. In preparing students for the course, we are honest about the nature of the course materials. We acknowledge that some content will likely be confronting, triggering and/or distressing, and that this may be amplified for some students more than others. In recognising the various ways that student distress may manifest, we provide suggestions for addressing their emotional needs. All students are given information about free, or low-cost, specialist health and support services available at the university and in the wider community. We make this list as current, comprehensive and accessible as possible to encourage students to make use of these services. Lastly, we provide space throughout the course for students to visit us during private student consultation hours. We signal to students that these hours are confidential and safe spaces for them to meet with us and discuss any issues that the course may raise for them. We take care to clarify that, while we are happy to provide a listening ear, we are not trained therapists. We offer to assist students in contacting specialist support if that is their wish.

As teachers of sensitive subjects, then, it is especially important that we recognise, and appropriately respond to, teachable moments when they surface as they can provide important scaffolding in our construction of safe and trusted learning environments.

Student disclosures of trauma have been common in our experience, as others teaching similar content have also observed (see Branch et al., 2011). Students feeling able to make disclosures of trauma to their teachers requires a high level of rapport and trust to have been built between the student and teaching staff. Disclosures of this nature are unlikely if students do not feel such safeguards exist (Bedera, 2021). Most of the rapport and trust we have with students is built through our in-person interactions with students. Alongside the supportive environment fostered within our classroom, our usual requirement for students to attend lectures, rather than accessing recorded lessons, enables us to read the room during lecture delivery. Teaching in a face-to-face context provides opportunities for assessing student reactions to challenging content via non-verbal cues, such as through their body language and facial expressions. When we teach sensitive or challenging content, we are highly attuned and responsive to students’ reactions to the content they are hearing. This helps identify when, and if, a shift in teaching approach may be required in the interests of student safety. Face-to-face delivery also helps us identify ‘teachable moments’ as they arise through in-class discussions. As educators, our ability to swiftly respond to teachable moments relating to sensitive issues can help build trust and rapport with students, thereby influencing the classroom environment as a whole. As teachers of sensitive subjects, then, it is especially important that we recognise, and appropriately respond to, teachable moments when they surface as they can provide important scaffolding in our construction of safe and trusted learning environments.

Given our ethics of care and our duty to minimise student distress, we had several reservations about delivering this paper in an online environment. As feminist criminologists, we are acutely aware of the emotionally involved and challenging nature of doing sexual violence research (Jordan, 2008; Keene, 2021), so we were concerned about our students engaging with heavy content in complete isolation. We were also concerned about student privacy whilst engaging with sensitive lecture material in their homes. We were conscious that students may not have private spaces to view course materials, and we wondered how students would participate in conversations when others in their household, such as flatmates or family members, may overhear them.

From an equity perspective, we were also concerned about students’ access to digital technologies and internet capabilities in their homes. While several financial assistance packages were made available by the government during the pandemic, these were rarely extended to university students specifically, except for some temporary measures (Ministry of Education, 2021). Universities across Aotearoa/New Zealand stepped up to provide financial assistance for students, such as hardship grants and loaned laptop schemes. However, we were aware of students in our course who struggled to access hardship supports in a timely manner during the lockdown. We questioned how we could redesign the course content to best meet the needs of students with limited access to digital capabilities and to ensure they were able to complete the course successfully. Beyond concerns about students managing the course content, we knew, as feminist criminologists, that lockdown environments would result in increased levels of family and sexual violence across Aotearoa/New Zealand. We also expected that victims’ access to support services may be limited or, in some instances, unavailable due to lockdown restrictions. In sum, we expected students would require more support than ever while completing this course.

Our expectations soon proved to be correct and we were confronted with high levels of student stress and distress, much of it stemming from the shock and anxiety triggered by the sudden lockdown. Nicole Bedera (2021) contends that instructors teaching the topic of sexual violence need specialist subject expertise, and they should be reflexive and responsive to students’ needs in their teaching. We were fortunate to be assisted in the delivery of this paper by two highly experienced tutors who had extensive knowledge of sexual violence-related issues, as well as professional experience as sexual violence prevention educators. Having the assistance of such skilled and competent assistants on our course gave us the confidence and assurance we needed to ensure that the paper could be successfully redesigned and delivered safely in a solely digital and COVID-anxious environment.

We knew how important it was to create an environment where students trusted us and felt able to communicate with us about the challenges they were experiencing during the course.

So how did we proceed with delivering a paper on sexual violence in this fully digital environment? Drawing on the first author’s prior experience with online teaching, we replaced the traditional lecture format with weekly, pre-recorded video modules for students to engage with in their own time. Each module consisted of between five and eight pre-recorded video lecture segments that, as well as the usual PowerPoints, were accompanied also by links to supplementary materials, such as YouTube videos, news media items and TED talks so that students could further develop their learning at their own pace. To reduce the intensity of the course content and address attention span issues, we made the modules shorter than traditional lectures. This reduced the intensity of the course content, gave students the option to skip content they may find distressing, and reduced the amount of streaming broadband required for engagement.

Although creating these pre-recorded video modules and sourcing appropriate YouTube videos greatly increased our workload, course evaluations indicated that students particularly appreciated the adaptations we made to the course structure for delivery in a fully digital environment. For example, student evaluations noted that ‘the delivery of content with a mixture of lecture material and supplementary external video clips kept me engaged’, and ‘I valued being able to choose when I could sit down and watch lectures based on when I felt I was in a good head space to receive such sensitive information’.

In recognition of the significant disruption that the lockdown was having on our students, we also scaled back assessment requirements by reducing essay word limits, reweighting assessment percentages and removing mandatory tutorial attendance requirements. We knew how important it was to create an environment where students trusted us and felt able to communicate with us about the challenges they were experiencing during the course. We worked hard to be as ‘human’ as possible, despite the distance between us and our student cohort. We regularly provided video updates in place of written announcements to enhance our digital presence. We communicated with students via Blackboard more regularly than we would during face-to-face delivery. This proved effective, with student evaluations identifying the ‘constant communication and support offered throughout the course’ as a specific aspect that stimulated or helped them to learn.  

Alongside our constant communication through video and written announcements in the digital environment, all staff involved held regular ‘drop-in’ sessions which, when students attended, dually functioned as both learning support and pastoral care check-ins. In the absence of building in-person rapport, we introduced students to our pets and provided them with a glimpse into our home lives, letting them get a ‘feel’ for who we were as their teachers. Further, we ensured that we remained up to date with what support services were available for them at the university, and we kept informed about how support services were operating in the community during lockdown. We communicated this information regularly to students through multiple online channels in a further attempt to build the trust and rapport we were used to developing through our face-to-face interactions with students.

Faculty staff involved in administering academic workloads should recognise and take into account the increased workloads arising from pastoral care work done by academic staff teaching courses on gender-based violence.

Teaching courses about gender-based violence can be emotionally challenging for students, but they can be just as emotionally challenging for academic staff involved in their delivery (Bedera, 2021; Nikischer, 2019; Sheffield, 2012). In the online environment, the emotionally laborious nature of teaching sexual violence content was exacerbated by our need to be constantly visible and present, and we certainly do not wish to understate the added workloads we experienced teaching this course online. However, the duty of care to our students in this paper took precedence for all of us involved in teaching it. This ethics of care needs to be evident throughout tertiary institutions so that staff teaching sensitive material are listened to and supported regarding both students’ needs and their own. Faculty staff involved in administering academic workloads should recognise and take into account the increased workloads arising from pastoral care work done by academic staff teaching courses on gender-based violence.

As we reflect on our experience delivering a paper on sexual violence in a digital environment, we acknowledge that, to be delivered safely, the course required teachers with a unique set of skills and expertise. Both our own and our tutors’ knowledge and expertise in the topic of sexual violence meant we were able to foresee the possible needs of our cohort and plan rapidly for the delivery of this paper in a fully online learning environment. With student safety and wellbeing at the forefront of our thinking, we managed to deliver a fully remodelled online version of our course that received resoundingly successful student evaluations. We encourage others who are planning the delivery of online courses about sensitive topics to make use of the expertise of scholars and practitioners working in these fields – from course conceptualisation and design through to facilitation and delivery. By drawing on the expertise and insights of those working in the field, future courses can be developed in ways that safeguard and protect student safety and wellbeing in online environments to the best of staff abilities, ultimately enabling students to flourish through their academic studies.

Acknowledgements

We wish to thank our postgraduate student tutors, Sophie Beaumont and Jahla Tran-Lawrence of Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington, for their teaching support. Their commitment to trauma-informed teaching and their expertise in issues of sexual violence helped ensure CRIM324: Sexual Violence was taught safely to over 100 students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAMANTHA KEENE is a Lecturer/Pūkenga in Criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. Samantha’s research interests include issues of gendered harm, violence against women and girls, and the criminal justice system’s responses to women as victims and survivors. She is currently publishing on issues relating to the influence of contemporary pornography on gender-based violence, consensual/non-consensual rough sex, and the rough sex defence.

JAN JORDAN is an Emeritus Professor in Criminology at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. She has been actively involved in numerous studies over the years aimed at understanding how victim/survivors experience police reporting processes, as well as exploring narratives of victimisation and survival.  Currently she is completing two books focused on how our patriarchal legacy is evident in the tenacity of rape culture.

References

Baker, M. G., Kvalsvig, A., & Verrall, A. J. (2020). New Zealand’s COVID-19 elimination strategy. Medical Journal of Australia, 213(5), 198-200 e191. https://doi.org/10.5694/mja2.50735

Bedera, N. (2021). Beyond trigger warnings: A survivor-centered approach to teaching on sexual violence and avoiding institutional betrayal. Teaching Sociology. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X211022471

Branch, K. A., Hayes-Smith, R., & Richards, T. N. (2011). Professors’ experiences with student disclosures of sexual assault and intimate partner violence: How “helping” students can inform teaching practices. Feminist Criminology, 6(1), 54-75. https://doi.org/10.1177/1557085110397040

Dalton, D. (2010). ‘Crime, law and trauma’: a personal reflection on the challenges and rewards of teaching sensitive topics to criminology students. Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences, 2(3), 1-18. https://doi.org/10.11120/elss.2010.02030008

Danis, F. S. (2016). Teaching domestic violence online: A step forward or a step backward? Violence Against Women, 22(12), 1476-1483. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801215626810

Haggerty, C. E. (2015). Supporting academic workloads in online learning. Distance Education, 36(2), 196-209. https://doi.org/10.1080/01587919.2015.1055057   

Hollander, J. A. (2016). Teaching about gendered violence without disempowering women. In K. Haltinner & R. Pilgeram (Eds.), Teaching gender and sex in contemporary America (pp. 85-92). Springer International Publishing.

Jordan, J. (2008). Serial survivors: Women’s narratives of surviving rape. Sydney: The Federation Press.

Keene, S. (2021). Becoming a sexademic: Reflections on a ‘dirty’ research project. Sexualities. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460720986915

Ministry of Education. (2021). Advice for tertiary students. https://www.education.govt.nz/covid-19/advice-for-tertiary-students/

Nikischer, A. (2019). Vicarious trauma inside the academe: understanding the impact of teaching, researching and writing violence. Higher Education, 77(5), 905-916. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-018-0308-4

Sheffield, C. (2012). ‘Always ready for summer’: Reflections on the emotional cost of teaching about violence against women. Transformations, 22(2), 21-35,153-154.

Whitehead, S. N., & Parker, M. M. (2017). Criminal justice: Calming, critical thinking, and case studies: The politics, pitfalls, and practical solutions for teaching criminal justice in an online environment. In R. C. Alexander (Ed.), Best practices in online teaching and learning across academic disciplines (pp. 75-91). Fairfax, Virginia: George Mason University.

read more

Marriage in the Hebrew Bible

We have posted before on this blog about rape culture in Christian settings (see here) and about domestic abuse and the Bible (see here).

Marriage does not offer protection from abuse or rape, and this applies also to marriages joined in communities that use and cherish the Bible as a sacred and authoritative text.

Saima Afzal and Johanna Stiebert are currently writing a book about some of the difficult dynamics between ‘the Bible’ on the one hand, and ‘violence in marriage’ on the other. The topic of violence, marriage and the Bible has multiple dimensions. To give a few indicative examples: many are excluded from certain definitions of ‘biblical marriage’ – notably, same-sex loving people – which does violence. Sometimes the Bible is used to suppress or downplay physical violence within marriage. In some biblical texts, violence – such as rape and abduction – transpires in marriage, or marriage obscures violence.

Important work has already been done on marriage and the Bible, including (where the Hebrew Bible is concerned) by Alastair G. Hunter. Alastair was lecturer in Hebrew and Biblical Studies at the University of Glasgow and has written and published widely, notably on Hebrew wisdom literature and Psalms. In 2019 Johanna heard Alastair present his work on marriage and the Bible at a fabulous conference, ‘Women and Gender in the Bible and the Ancient Near East’ (see more here).

Alastair has not published his research but has kindly permitted us to share it here. We hope you will find it as valuable as we do. Please note that there is a long, comprehensive version (of +20K words) and a much shorter, more accessible version (of ca.6K words).

[The featured image is called ‘Equal Marriage Timeline Infographic’ and is by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. CC BY 2.0]

read more

Opening Conversations about GBV with Visual Media

Images can be very powerful and can communicate an abundance in an instant.  

Visual media can be effective tools for teaching.  

Because gender-based and sexual violence are distressing, images depicting or implying gender-based or sexual violence are highly likely to be distressing, too. It can be difficult to negotiate communicating a truth, being sensitive to and respectful of victims of violence, and avoiding voyeurism, all at the same time. 

Using images to open conversations and for teaching can be very effective in moving closer towards the elimination of gendered violence. 

Here are three quick examples.  

In an earlier post we presented the artwork of graphic designer Pia Alize. Her work depicts accounts of gender-based violence from the Bible. These images have now formed the focus of two well attended interactive workshops with ministerial candidates, both led by Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana). Church leaders are highly likely to be confronted with situations of gender-based violence in their parishes. Consequently, training in first response to disclosures of gender-based violence, and knowledge about how to facilitate support and protection for victims is crucial. Mark reports that the images generated lively engagement and that participants reported feeling transformed and reading the Bible with new sensitivities.  

Workshop with Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana) [2]
Workshop with Dr Mark Aidoo of the Trinity Theological Seminary in Legon, Accra (Ghana) [3]

Episcopal Relief & Development has produced a wide array of images to stimulate conversations about a range of difficult and complex topics – including about economic abuse and also gender-based violence. Each of these images tells a story. Episcopal Relief & Development leads group work on reflecting on the images, encouraging participants to associate the themes portrayed with events in their own lives, and exploring the repercussions of abusive actions. This then leads on to devising active strategies of resistance. 

Resource from Episcopal Relief & Development

Lastly, here are ‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson. Charlotte is a Church of England ordinand and reads the Bible together with groups of women in the Women’s Theology Network. Their aim is to explore the continuing relevance of the Bible’s stories. This has included also discussion of stories of violence against women of the Bible, like Bilhah, Dinah, and Hagar, depicted here. 

‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [1]
‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [2]
‘Lent doodles’ by Charlotte Gibson [3]

read more

Graphic Artwork on Sexual Violence in the Bible by Pia Alize

Sexual Violence in the Bible

Here’s hoping 2021 brings positive action and results after what has been a difficult and challenging 2020, not least for groups already very vulnerable to and suffering from gender-based violence. 

Here’s a resource we hope many of you will find useful. This artwork is by Pia Alize, a graphic artist who has produced stunning images responding to gender-based violence and MeToo in India. You can see some of her other magnificent art, or contact Pia at: www.pigstudio.in

We hope these images, capturing references to gender-based and sexual violence in the Bible, will open up conversations that lead to social justice action in faith-based communities and beyond. We will be using them in workshops and teaching sessions. Our hope is they will appeal to a wide and inclusive audience.

If you require jpg files, please contact Johanna: j.stiebert@leeds.ac.uk

Funding for the production of these images was provided by the generous support of a grant from the AHRC UKRI, ‘Resisting Gender-Based Violence and Injustice Through Activism with Bible Texts and Images’. 

Sexual Violence in the Bible
Sexual Violence in the Bible
preliminary cartoon
an early sketch, by Pia Alize
Sexual Violence in the Bible
Sexual violence in the Bible
read more

Introducing…The Shiloh Podcast!

The Shiloh Podcast logo.

The Shiloh Podcast has arrived!

Rosie Dawson, award-winning journalist, theologian, and host of The Shiloh Podcast shines a light on the stories and practices of religion that either contribute to or resist rape culture. Through conversations with scholars and practitioners, the podcast invites us all to think about ways that we can challenge and dismantle rape culture in our own communities.

Feast your ears on our new trailer and introductory episode, where Rosie discusses the origins of The Shiloh Project with Katie Edwards, until July 2020 one of the project’s co-directors.

Don’t forget to review, rate and subscribe to be notified of new episodes.

https://open.spotify.com/episode/0ZPIZec92xIr5hGJvlBiAm

read more

UN 16 Days of Activism: Day 9 – Chris Greenough

Tell us about yourself: who are you and what do you do?

My name is Chris Greenough and I’m Senior Lecturer in Religion at Edge Hill University. I research and teach on gender, sexuality and religion. My research to date has mostly focussed on LGBTQ+ religious and spiritual identities, queer theologies and queer biblical studies.

 How does your research or your work connect to activism?

As an academic, I engage and contribute to activism in various ways. When we think of activism we think of protest and the public assembly of like-minded individuals, collaborating to fight against injustices and for change. But, aside from this, we are all activists in our communities: in our classrooms, on social media and in our one-to-one interactions. I am a former secondary school teacher and part of my current role is initial teacher education and I work hard to ensure our future teachers are confident to work with LGBTQ+ issues.

Reflecting on how I am activist in the classroom, I have an article in the special edition of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies, edited by Johanna Stiebert. In the article, I explore the notions of risk, experimentation and failure, as well as of tackling specific issues relating to resistance of queer biblical criticism based on religious faith.

There are regular TV and media discussion panels debating questions about how LGBTQ+ lives and Christianity are seemingly incompatible. In conservative religious settings, we see how verses selected from the Bible are used to condemn same sex relationships/marriage, transgender recognition, gay and lesbian parenting or adoption and these form the positional statements of major Christian denominations. In this sense, my work is activism that speaks back to what is, in fact, really toxic theology. My first monograph, Undoing Theology, highlighted the harmful effects of traditionally dominant theology in Christianity on the lives of non-normative individuals. In his review of my book, Adrian Thatcher says, “We need to learn the pain that we cause. This is a bold, truthful book”.

Yet, being bold is not always easy. Activism comes with challenges and obstacles. Sara Ahmed puts this perfectly, “when we speak about what we come up against, we come up against what we speak about” (Living a Feminist Life, 2017: 148). As a queer scholar, I am undisciplined. That means I do not hold much allegiance to any of the traditional disciplines I work across: they each require a critical undoing of the powers and privilege which has produced and shaped them. As someone who writes on queer theologies and biblical studies, I am occasionally confronted with furrowed frowns as a reception to my work. If queer research makes people feel uncomfortable, it highlights the hegemony, gatekeepers and ‘methodsplainers’ at work in our disciplines. It highlights prejudice and discrimination to queer individuals. For me, resisting academic normativity in the pursuit of social justice is activism. I am entirely grateful to my academic scholars and friends at SIIBS and the Shiloh project for their support.

Why is activism important to you and what do you hope to achieve between now and the 16 Days of 2020?

The next twelve months are going to be busy! I’m delighted and incredibly proud to be working with Katie Edwards on a book for the Routledge Focus Book Series on ‘Rape Culture, Religion, and the Bible’. Our title aims to explore contemporary reactions and readings to the naming of Jesus as a victim of sexual abuse: #JesusToo: Silence, Stigma and Male Sexual Violence. In contemporary culture there is undeniably a culture of stigma associated with male sexual abuse. Despite this stigma, at least 1 in 6 men have been sexually abused or assaulted: https://1in6.org/ . There are also numerous myths around male sexual abuse that need further discussion.

I’m also going to be Guest Editor for a special edition of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies on Queer Theory and the Bible. The term ‘queer theory’ was first coined in 1990, so this seems a fitting edition to celebrate 30 years of queer!

read more

Rape Culture and Religious Studies: Book Review by Rabbi Dr. Barbara Thiede

The recently published book Rape Culture and Religious Studies:Critical and Pedagogical Engagements is edited by (Shiloh contributor) Rhiannon Graybill, Meredith Minister, and Beatrice Lawrence. This review is by Barbara Thiede, Department of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte.

Rape Culture and Religious Studies is an important book for all Shiloh Project supporters. Please order copies for your courses and libraries! More details can be found here.

Rape Culture and Religious Studies

Edited by Rhiannon Graybill, Meredith Minister, and Beatrice Lawrence

Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2019 (vii + 207 pages, ISBN 978-1-4985-6284-3, $95.00)

Once the #MeToo movement was taken up by celebrity (and white) victims of sexual harassment and assault, it sparked a public conversation that spread across the globe. A wide range of media outlets offered venues for personal disclosures, painful discussions, and, it was hoped, increased awareness of the rape cultures women are forced to navigate every day.

Religious studies teachers, in the meantime, continued to address sexual violence in the texts and traditions they studied. And yet: conversations in Religious Studies classes, that so often focus on class and race, gender and sexuality, sexual violence and abuse, seemed detached from the rape cultures that (literally) surround students and teachers alike.

In their co-edited volume, Rape Culture and Religious Studies, editors Rhiannon Graybill, Meredith Minister, and Beatrice Lawrence put the question: how do religious texts and traditions that justify, support, and maintain sexual violence intersect with contemporary rape culture?

The volume contains an introduction and nine essays. It includes studies that treat Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu traditions. Topics are wide-ranging. T. Nicole Goulet, for example, assesses the place and power of recently emerging “sacred literature” in the discussion of sexual violence and rape culture. Her discussion of Priya’s Shakti, a comic book that emerged after the gang rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey in 2012, describes how the comic revived Hindu practices while urging women to “speak without shame.” Goulet notes that while the comic does not critique existing power structures, the women it invites to speak have done so. Goulet’s essay demonstrates: there are significant intersections between religious tradition and contemporary rape culture.

Other essays provide similar insight, sometimes with surprising effect. Minenhle Nomalungelo Khumalo asks what happens when we read the biblical gang rape and death of the Levite’s Concubine in Judges 19 as a rape fantasy, one which can be profitably compared with non-consensual pornography. Kirsten Boles explores the way #MosqueMeToo can be situated when #MeToo adherents engage in racializing sexual violence; such as when Islam is accused of inherent misogyny and Muslim women are depicted as needing to be saved from violent brown men by Western (white) feminists. Meredith Minister offers a trenchant critique of the fetishizing of consent to counter rape culture. In her essay, she makes clear why consent, too, is an instrument of power. Rhiannon Graybill explains why analyzing rape culture demands more nuanced approaches to issues of harm, describing the relationship between race, sexual violence and colonialist visions of women as victims. She also points out that the Religious Studies classroom which addresses rape culture must deal with the ambiguities sex and sexual pleasure introduce to the discussion.

Some essays disappoint. Susanne Scholz’s essay on what she calls “cop-out hermeneutics” not only fails to offer new or innovative insights, it also deploys language about students that seems potentially flippant (“students may shed tears” when asked to relinquish “privatized, personalized and sentimentalized” biblical meaning). Teachers in Religious Studies classrooms can aim to ensure that their students feel safe when they are introduced to academic analysis of their religious traditions. No one benefits from internal eye-rolling or dismissive responses to this challenge.

But other essays in this volume provide models for Religious Studies teachers, like the essay by Gwynn Kessler, which demonstrates deep pedagogical self-reflection. Kessler also offers a model lesson plan that layers Deuteronomist texts on genocide, slavery, and rape and consciously brings those texts into conversation with contemporary manifestations of violence and sexual abuse. She walks the reader through her lesson plan, providing a fine example of thoughtful pedagogy for teaching texts of terror.

When I teach texts of sexual violence in the Hebrew Bible, I know that one – or more – students in my classroom will likely self-disclose in some way; rape victims are among my students. Rape Culture and Religious Studies acknowledges that survivors sit in our classrooms and that many come from religious traditions that promote or, at least, make a home for sexual violence.

Religious Studies teachers and their students live and work on campuses where rape culture is normalized. Today, teachers of religious traditions and sacred texts cannot afford a pedagogy that examines sexual violence of the past and simultaneously shuts out the rape culture of the present. Religious Studies teachers should read Rape Culture and Religious Studies. It will help us begin the work of exploring, analyzing, and exposing the intersections of religion and rape culture. That, too, is our work.

Barbara Thiede, Department of Religious Studies, UNC Charlotte

 

read more
1 2
Page 1 of 2