When Texts Sell

I have never really felt comfortable with the presumed division between teaching and scholarship. The challenges and insights of my students inspire me to research. In fact, I do my best work after my ideas are have been vetted in the classroom.

My primary area of study is the anthropology or social construction of scriptures.  I’m fascinated about how and why human beings mystify them. For instance, why is it that when they are are used for social good, their holiness is praised, but when they are applied unethically, someone gets blamed for having profaned the actual message? The content of the message is important, but we cannot overlook the deceptively simple questions of who is doing what to whom and how  and why.

In my teaching and scholarship, I try to embolden these questions by comparing what makes texts sell in different scriptural economies. And I like to highlight provocative texts as a means of getting at those basic questions.

This is what the class came up with. They were great sports.

sanfranIn 2011, I shared some of my techniques as part of a panel on “Best Practices for Teaching Intro to Hebrew Bible and New Testament Courses at Seminaries and Religious Colleges.” The event was sponsored by the Academic Teaching and Biblical Studies section at the  Annual Meeting Society of Biblical Literature Meeting in San Francisco. I demonstrated how my students and I chart the relationship between texts, readers, and social conditions.

The audience then joined me in using critical theory and web 2.0 technologies to diagram two texts: Biblezines (a modern text with which my students are  familiar but most scholars are unaware) and 4 Maccabees (an ancient text which many scholars are familiar and students are unaware). We concluded with a discussion on the socio-historical scenarios that might made these texts compelling.