As scholars of religion, we have been thinking about the category “scriptures” as one way to surface examples of a particular kind of signification. While there are many ways for us to consider this, we have adopted an anthropological approach–focusing on the cultural dynamics, productions, and exchanges that shape group identity. Scriptures for us is neither simply texts, nor is it about the sacred. Scriptures are the cultural texts that people read and that also seem to read them back.
We discussed this in relation to the talking drum, the talking book, and “do-it-yourself” ethos at play in Hip Hop.
Gomez’s work has had us thinking about this in relation to the place of the Bible (as an example of a cultural text) in the historical complex we’ve labeled as the African Diaspora. He notes that around the Bible we see prescriptions of behavior and value. And we see inscriptions, not only of people looking to the Bible for authority, but looking in themselves because the Bible mentions people understood to be like them.
In our lab activity for today, we want to consider the kinds of cultural formations we see taking shape around the Bible in the African Diaspora. We’ve seen the kind of engagements that some would call violence. We’ve also seen the kind of engagements that some would call identification. What is clear is that people don’t easily lay down certain texts (cf. “‘ligion”). The question is why.
Jacobson & Jacobson along with Gomez have given us terminology and historical context to help us sharpen our observations. The bold words there will help us bring clarity to our theorizing, especially as we outline our thoughts with a signifying chart.
But in terms of our data, we are going to look at four case studies.
1. Isaiah 18-20 New Revised Standard Version
2. 2 Chronicles 9 New Revised Standard Version
3. Acts 8:26-40 New Revised Standard Version
4. Operation Moses (optional for the assignment)
Use your signifying charts to outline the history of each of these moments (Gomez). Take notice of what you observe in your study (Myhre/Jacobson & Jacobson). What results, anthropologically speaking, to the cultures presented as a result of this engagement? And what does this teach you about how culture works?