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Staley's Changing Woman and Postcolonialism

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  • Horace Jeffery Hodges
    I apologize about posting this on the Johannine listserve, but I don t have Jeffrey Staley s email address. Jeff, I just finished reading your fine and
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1 7:33 AM
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      I apologize about posting this on the Johannine
      listserve, but I don't have Jeffrey Staley's email
      address.

      Jeff, I just finished reading your fine and thoughtful
      article "Changing Woman: Postcolonial Reflections on
      Acts 16:6-40".

      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
      not-so-innocent light.

      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
      his wisdom.

      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
      information.

      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.
      116).

      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?

      Jeffery Hodges

      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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