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RE: [XTalk] Honor and Shame question

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  • Richard H. Anderson
    for a critique of the honor-shame rubric look at Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 4 (2002-2003) - Review Johanna Stiebert, The Construction of Shame in
    Message 1 of 13 , Dec 18, 2003
      for a critique of the honor-shame rubric look at
      Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 4 (2002-2003) - Review

      Johanna Stiebert, The Construction of Shame in the Hebrew Bible: The
      Prophetic Contribution (JSOTS 346; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press,
      2002), Pp. x, 196. Hardback, ISBN 1-84127-268-X. $ 95.


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      ----
      The Construction of Shame in the Hebrew Bible is largely a critique of the
      honor-shame rubric borrowed by biblical scholars from Mediterranean social
      anthropology. Stiebert devotes exactly half of the book (ch. 1) to a direct
      criticism of the model's applicability, challenging examples in biblical
      scholarship. The second half of the book is an exploration of shame language
      in Isaiah (ch. 2), Jeremiah (ch. 3), and Ezekiel (ch. 4), the biblical
      literature in which such terms are most prevalent. These books provide case
      studies for continued criticism of the purported honor-shame matrix. The
      conclusion (ch. 5) summarizes evidence against the accepted paradigm and
      alternatives that this volume proposes.
      Stiebert's critique is made up of several observations to which she returns
      throughout the book. She states that biblical scholars have not listened to
      voices within the field of Mediterranean studies that question the universal
      applicability of the honor-shame matrix and the presence of any widespread
      cultural continuity (e.g., M. Herzfeld on particularization and U. Wikan
      against honor and shame as antonyms). Stiebert also joins those (e.g., D. L.
      Cairnes) who criticize the assumption that cultures are either guilt-based
      or shame-based.

      I have only included the first two paragraphs of the review. The entire
      review can be found at:
      http://collection.nlc-bnc.ca/100/201/300/journal_hebrew/reviews/2002/1202a/r
      eview069.htm

      Richard H. Anderson
    • David B. Gowler
      ... I would agree that Herzfeld and Wikan offer critiques that should be considered (Wikan s argument that shame is not exactly the opposite of honor, in my
      Message 2 of 13 , Dec 18, 2003
        >She states that biblical scholars have not listened to
        >voices within the field of Mediterranean studies that question the universal
        >applicability of the honor-shame matrix and the presence of any widespread
        >cultural continuity (e.g., M. Herzfeld on particularization and U. Wikan
        >against honor and shame as antonyms). Stiebert also joins those (e.g., D. L.
        >Cairnes) who criticize the assumption that cultures are either guilt-based
        >or shame-based.

        I would agree that Herzfeld and Wikan offer critiques that should be considered
        (Wikan's argument that shame is not exactly the opposite of honor, in my view,
        is correct). Frank Henderson Stuart's short book Honor also should be noted.
        One of the first critics of the "Mediterranean" as a "category" was Joao de
        Pina-Cabral, "The Mediterranean as a Category of Regional Comparison: A
        Critical View," Current Anthropology 30 (1989) 399-406. It is also clear, to
        me at least, that the "shame-based" (with no "introspective conscience") and
        "guilt-based" distinction is vastly oversimplified and often not helpful.

        I would argue that such "cultural scripts" have heuristic value, but are not
        useful at all if they become an interpretive matrix imposed on texts like a
        strait jacket. Any use of such cultural scripts, I think, should be based on a
        careful reading of primary texts. What I have found, since beginning this in
        the 1980's, was that issues such as honor, shame, purity/miasma, and so forth,
        are indeed critically important to ancient texts (ranging from Sophocles,
        Suetonius, Plutarch, Josephus, Chaereas and Callirhoe, the NT, etc.) but show
        differing manifestations. Malina, Neyrey, and others deserve great credit for
        at least bringing to the fore the problems of anachronism and ethnocentrism in
        our reading of the NT

        Good luck with your work.

        With every good wish,
        David

        ************************************************
        Dr. David B. Gowler
        Oxford College of Emory University
        Pierce Professor of Religion; Associate Professor
        http://www.emory.edu/OXFORD/pierceprogram/Pierce.html
        http://userwww.service.emory.edu/~dgowler/dbg.htm
        ************************************************
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