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Stories in a Strange Land: Biblical Narratives about Assimilation and Religious Identity

Carlsbergfondets postdoc-stipendier i Danmark


The title of my postdoctoral project is "Stories in a Strange Land: Biblical Narratives about Assimilation and Religious Identity". It concerns issues of migration and religious belonging in the Bible. I will analyse four stories about Jews living among foreigners (Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Tobit) and investigate how the ancient texts envision religious life abroad and what strategies they reflect for living in different worlds simultaneously without being at home in any of them.


Issues of migration and religious belonging were just as important in the ancient world as they are now. By mapping attitudes towards faith in foreign lands in the ancient world I hope to shed light on the experiences of religious minorities today.


My ambition is to write four articles, one on each of the four biblical narratives. Furthermore, I hope to develop these articles into a concise monograph which provides a resource for understanding the experiences of religious minorities today. To get a deeper understanding of life in the diaspora, I will participate in and chair sessions at international conferences. In particular, I plan to arrange a seminar with experts on ancient and aspects of diasporic existence which shall track experiences and textual representations from the Bible to the present. Finally, I hope to secure a research stay at the University of Virginia to work closely together with Prof. M. A. Halvorson-Taylor, a leading expert in Bible and diaspora studies.


My hypothesis is that insights and methodology from the emerging field of diaspora studies can help us to discover elements and patterns in the biblical texts which have remained unnoticed. At the same time, I hope to demonstrate how the various experiences of living abroad in the Bible can be a rich resource for thinking about migration and religion today. A fresh look on these old texts, which throughout centuries have shaped Western culture, may help us to understand the dynamics of religious identity and to qualify our current social and political dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of religious minorities in the West.