Staley's Changing Woman and Postcolonialism
- I apologize about posting this on the Johannine
listserve, but I don't have Jeffrey Staley's email
Jeff, I just finished reading your fine and thoughtful
article "Changing Woman: Postcolonial Reflections on
I was surprised to read that "Acts 16.9 has played an
important role in the colonizing rhetoric of European
empires from the sixteenth century to the present day"
(p. 115), but I suppose that I should not be, for I do
know about the American colonists use of the Hebrew
scriptures' label "Amalakites" to justify
exterminating Native Americans.
I'm not a scholar of Luke-Acts, so I suppose that I am
naive about its history of interpretation -- even
though I proofread James Scott's "Paul and the
Nations" for Mohr while I was doing my doctoral
research as an exchange student in Tuebingen (from
1989 to 1995, initially as a Fulbright Scholar, then
supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation).
I found very interesting Origen and Wink's
interpretation of Paul's "man of Macedonia"
dream-vision as a vision of the angel of the region.
The parallels to other dreams/visions encouraging or
discouraging imperialistic advance were also very
interesting and do put Paul's vision into a
I don't have access to a library these days, but I
recall reading of a story of one of Mani's followers
(or was it Mani himself?) having a vision of being
stopped from entering India by a goddess-like figure
until he had proven his worthiness by the greatness of
Similarly, I recall reading of a Sufi saint being
enabled to enter India only after converting a
(divine?) Hindu woman to Sufi Islam.
I wish that I could provide more details of these
since they seem to fit your and Musa Dube Shomanah's
views on 'border-women'. Unfortunately, I am these
days in the wrong place for providing bibliographical
Anyway, Paul's dream-vision does seem to fit a
long-established pattern of 'imperialistic'
dream-visions, doesn't it.
Or does it? If we wanted to deconstruct the
imperialistic hermeneutic of Paul's mission to
Macedonia, we could begin to do so by noting that he
was called by the 'angel' of the region to help the
Macedonians who were dominated by the imperialist
Romans -- and thus by the angel of Rome, who thus must
have played some role in crucifying Jesus?
In this case, couldn't Paul be seen as coming to the
spiritual aid of those dominated by both spiritually
and politically by Rome? He isn't bringing a physical
army, after all, but spiritual power.
I'm not sure how to bring this interpretation to bear
on the two women in Acts 16, Lydia and the
'charismatic' slave-girl. But I would like to note
that the slaveowners seize Paul (and Silas) after he
has exorcised the spirit from the slave-girl and bring
him before the city magistrates complaining that he
has been "advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to
accept or practice". Note that the slaveowners
identify themselves as Romans, which might thereby
associate with Rome the spirit that had possessed the
slave-girl. She was not only possessed but oppressed!
I realize that this analysis is complicated by the
fact that text later goes on to identify Paul as a
Roman citizen, but doesn't this itself also make Paul
the Pharisaical Jew from Tarsus into a kind of liminal
figure -- or a 'halfbreed' like Tayo (p. 132).
Or am I pushing this too far?
Aside from all that, I found helpful your manner of
conscious self-reflection upon yourself as a reader in
a particular place at a particular time with a
particular history interacting with a text from a
different particular time and place and with a long,
subsequent history of interpretation attached to
whatever prior history it had had in its making.
No wonder you "vacillate[d] and procrastinate[d]" (p.
So ... how do we apply a postcolonialist analysis to
John? Musa Dube Shomanah applied it to the
passion-week story of Jesus in John's Gospel -- as I
noted a couple of months ago. Who else is doing this,
and what do they say?
P.S. I was appalled by the remarks about the
slave-girl made by some of the scholars whom you cite.
I would say more, but this forum is too public.
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