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Christián H. Ricci

New voices of Muslim North-African Migrants in Europe captures the experience in writing of a fast growing number of individuals belonging to migrant communities in Europe. The book follows attempts to transform postcolonial literary studies into a comparative, translingual, and supranational project. Cristián H. Ricci frames Moroccan literature written in European languages within the ampler context of borderland studies. The author addresses the realm of a literature that has been practically absent from the field of postcolonial literary studies (i.e. Neerlandophone or Gay Muslim literature). The book also converses with other minor literatures and theories from Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asians and Latino/as in the Americas that combine histories of colonization, labor migration, and enforced exile.

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Edited by Jay Paul Gates and Brian T. O'Camb

This volume of essays focuses on how individuals living in the late tenth through fifteenth centuries engaged with the authorizing culture of the Anglo-Saxons. Drawing from a reservoir of undertreated early English documents and texts, each contributor shows how individual poets, ecclesiasts, legists, and institutions claimed Anglo-Saxon predecessors for rhetorical purposes in response to social, cultural, and linguistic change. Contributors trouble simple definitions of identity and period, exploring how medieval authors looked to earlier periods of history to define social identities and make claims for their present moment based on the political fiction of an imagined community of a single, distinct nation unified in identity by descent and religion.
Contributors are Cynthia Turner Camp, Irina Dumitrescu, Jay Paul Gates, Erin Michelle Goeres, Mary Kate Hurley, Maren Clegg Hyer, Nicole Marafioti, Brian O’Camb, Kathleen Smith, Carla María Thomas, Larissa Tracy, and Eric Weiskott.

Contextual Biblical Hermeneutics as Multicentric Dialogue

Towards a Singaporean Reading of Daniel

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

In this book, Stephen Lim offers a contextual way of reading biblical texts that reconceptualises context as an epistemic space caught between the modern/colonial world system and local networks of knowledge production. In this light, he proposes a multicentric dialogical approach that takes into account the privilege of specialist readers in relation to nonspecialist readers. At the same time, he rethinks what dialogue with the Other means in a particular context, which then decides the conversation partners brought in from the margins. This is applied to his context in Singapore through a reading of Daniel where perspectives from western biblical scholarship, Asian traditions and Singaporean cultural products are brought together to dialogue on issues of transformative praxis and identity formation.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

Daniel chapters 3 and 6 are two stories that present Daniel, Shadrach, Mishael and Abednego in direct confrontation with the empire where the option of hiding their religious affiliation is relatively less available to them. In this chapter, I read their actions of political resistance in dialogue with western biblical scholarship, Mahatma Gandhi and political prisoners in Singapore or what it is also popularly called, the Lion City. The logic of purity seen in the previous chapter is again demonstrated in the reading of western biblical scholars in these two stories of the fiery furnace and the lions’ den. Most biblical scholars would prefer to see the refusal to bow to the golden statue and abide by the edict that bans petitioning any god other than the king as purely religious in nature and that political effects are at best incidental. However, a significant minority think of their actions as intentionally opposing the empire, thus constituting political resistance. Based on a reading of Gandhi’s interpretation of Daniel 6 together with his concept of passive resistance in his iconic book, Hind Swaraj (translated as Home Rule; 1997), I argue that Gandhi would not think of the political as separate from the religious but how religion empowers one to do political action. Bringing in the experiences of political prisoners in Singapore, I find that the efficacy of the political and religious have been overdetermined in the interpretations of western biblical scholarship and even Gandhi himself. Rather by reading the stories through the experiences of political prisoners found in four Singaporean texts I have chosen, I argue the key reason why the religious cannot be divorced from the political is because one is facing an overwhelming force of empire. Yet at the same time, I also highlight how Gandhi’s perspectives would bring to light the issues of excessive violence in the text and; how the experiences of political prisoners would highlight how the triumphalist overtones of the stories can be potentially problematic in contemporary political struggles.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

This chapter maps out key influences on reading the Bible in Singapore. Using Tracy’s portrayal of the theologian as situated between the publics of academy, church and society, I identify the dominant discursive powers that control biblical interpretation in each arena. Then I bring them together to situate the key issues as (un)problematic Bible, (un)problematic capitalism and (un)problematic secularism. The common signifier, (un)problematic, is meant to point to the fact that the common thread through each of them is that it is mostly hidden from plain sight. Its hiddenness is largely contributed by structuring the discursive environment to favour trends in western biblical interpretation as well as overlooking the foundational elements of class and race that grant privilege to elite, English-educated Chinese majority in the Singaporean context. As a result, the Bible, capitalist transformation of Singaporean society and entrenching of militant secularism are normally seen as unproblematic in contextual interpretation.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

I conclude this book on the question of what it means to be ‘Singaporean’ in the way one reads the Bible. In other words, I raise the question of identity. Here I argue that if we accept that our social identities are important in shaping our interpretative horizons, then it is important to ask what kind of consciousness we inhabit in order to read the Bible in a particular context. Therefore, thinking of context spatially as epistemic terrain rather than some form of ontological essence becomes salient and important. I begin by acknowledging that much of my consciousness in reading the Bible is determined by current structures of knowledge production that privilege white, male subjectivities working from western contexts as well as the dominant bourgeois Chinese majority in Christian churches in Singapore. This is before I pluralise my consciousness using the Bible as a centre that converges standpoints from various collectivities of epistemic agents embedded in the epistemic terrain of the context of Singapore. After mapping out the other coordinates I need to take reference from to shape my identity within the Singaporean context as I read the Bible, I evaluate the potential discursive effects such an exercise would have on the Singaporean interlocuters I have mobilised. Finally I end the book by suggesting what vistas this journey has opened up and the potential areas of further research both for the local context of Singapore, the regional contexts of Asia and the West and potentially for the world today. There are two main areas I raise for further consideration: first, what it means to construct a system of knowledge of God based on the Bible through this form of inquiry and second, what steps are needed to transform this into a more popular approach.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

Having considered these three case studies separately, I bring them together to bear directly on the context of Singapore. In other words, I answer the key questions I raised in the introduction. With regards to (un)problematic secularism, I show that my readings point to biblical scholars as seeing religion as opposing politics whereas for my Asian interlocuters, it is religion reforming politics. However the Singaporean standpoints I have chosen would destabilise these categories and demonstrate that Daniel cannot be read unproblematically through a distinction of religion and politics. This brings me to a closely related concern of (un)problematic capitalism where the options by biblical scholars are either to maintain one’s religious piety or challenge the system. My Asian interlocuters push me to resist Daniel and embrace a non-confrontational posture towards empire. The Other in Singapore however proves that it is not possible to keep to the purity of any action because very often our circumstances would not allow such a luxury.

This leads me to re-evaluate the (un)problematic text. This is before moving towards re-evaluating the (un)problematic text. In the Singaporean context, I argue that it would be more appropriate to move our conception of text as rhetoric to a site of struggle as well as consider the kind of texts we use to read alongside the Bible so as to include subaltern cultural production. I then draw the conversation to a close by looking at how my identity is formed in Singapore to demonstrate how this reading could pluralise my consciousness. Finally the chapter concludes on evaluating the discursive effects of this reading on the Other in the Singaporean context.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

In the opening chapter of the book, I set out the key concepts that undergird the putting together of this contextual biblical hermeneutic. First, I recognise that the Bible in Asia is mainly mediated through colonialism. In the light of this, biblical interpretation is embedded in two networks of knowledge production. On the one hand, there is the inter-contextual arena of what decolonial thinker, Anibal Quijano (2007) calls the modern/colonial world system where western intellectual traditions are promulgated throughout the world as universal theoretical frameworks. On the other hand, there is the intra-contextual consideration of what José Medina (2006) describes to be ‘polyphonic contextualism’, that is, any geopolitically defined space comprises of networks of epistemic agents that relate to one another hierarchically which give rise to spaces of intelligibility and spaces of marginality. In order to navigate this epistemic terrain, I argue that reading the Bible has to gear towards transformative praxis and identity formation while holding in tension that the Bible should also be seen in its Otherness.

The book is structured into two parts. The first part is the theoretical formulation of a Singaporean reading frame that can be applied to the Bible. Here I outline the main contextual considerations before arguing for a hermeneutic that comprises of two concurrent frameworks – conscientisation and conversation. The second part is where I complete the hermeneutical circle by applying the theory to specific biblical texts in order to on the one hand demonstrate the fruits of the theory, and on the other hand, test its limitations. The biblical texts I have chosen are the stories found in the book of Daniel.

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Chin Ming Stephen Lim

Abstract

This chapter serves to set the background for the reading of the stories of Daniel in the context of Singapore. I do so by drawing key connections between the ancient and modern contexts with the help of world historian Michael Mann (1986; 2013). He proposes a heuristic theoretical framework arguing that social power is consistently contested by four interlocking networks – ideological, political, economic and military. As my primary interest is in reading the Bible and the main place of religion has constantly been in the ideological network of power, I focus mainly on how legitimacy is garnered in both modern and ancient contexts so as to set up the key points of the negotiation that the Bible enters into. However I do still factor in the other three networks looking at how economies are structured, political structures are set up and military might is used to maintain peace within the boundaries of empire.

Bringing the networks of social power both past and present together, I argue that from the perspective of praxis, the key questions are: What is the perception of empire in the stories of Daniel in the light of the networks of power illustrated above? How would standpoints from the West, Asia and Singapore help a reader such as myself identify different modes of praxis within biblical texts? More crucially, which of these modes ought to be embraced, adapted or problematised? Moving to the question of identity formation, the key questions are: How would a multicentric mode of reading texts renegotiate the interpellation of desire by dominant interpretive powers of the state and the West? More importantly, how would it seek to realign readers such as myself with submerged identities both in ancient and contemporary contexts in hope of pluralising their consciousness?