ANZABS, STAANZ, and other acronyms

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Biblical Studies (ANZABS) and the Systematic Theology Association of Aotearoa New Zealand (STAANZ) held their annual conferences conjointly on 10-11 November this year at Laidlaw College, Auckland. Attendees of both conferences were treated to a plethora of fascinating papers from speakers who had travelled from near (Laidlaw College, Carey Baptist College, University of Auckland, Good Shepherd Theological College, St John’s Theological College), a little farther (Otago University), and further still (Newcastle University, University of Lund).

A number of staff and doctoral students from our own School of Theology at the University of Auckland were in attendance, and presented papers that not only thrilled their audiences, but also gave an impressive display of the School’s breadth and depth of research interests. Here are their abstracts:

Divine Demons and Demonic Angels: Biblical Afterlives and the Inversion of Good and Evil in Contemporary Popular Culture.
Lecturer in Practical Theology
Biblical texts are not the sole property of religious and scholarly communities, but also exist, as Yvonne Sherwood (2000) contends, as memories or ‘afterlives’ within contemporary culture. Where the original texts may have now been ‘lost’ to the wider community, new visions and interpretations of those texts continue to shape their legacy. This is particularly apparent in the narratives surrounding demonic (e.g. the vampire) and angelic beings within contemporary popular culture. Starting with biblical ‘echoes’ of these figures, popular culture commonly inverts their basic definitions, redeeming the demonic and demonizing the angelic. The paper explores examples of these inversions, with particular emphasis on their use to challenge traditional religious narratives and institutions.
“A contextual reading of Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9 and the totimi kuchou (true women) concept of womanhood in Sümi Naga tribe of India”.
Jekheli Kibami Singh 
Doctoral student (biblical studies)
It is intriguing that in the context of the book of Proverbs, where the wise were held with high esteem, wisdom is personified as a woman. This paper will attempt to look at the elevation of Woman Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9 as more than a literary construct. It recognizes the gendering of the passages, which will be read from a Sümi Naga woman’s perspective. It will also aim to deconstruct totimi kuchou (true woman) concept of womanhood in Sümi tribe of Nagaland, India. Totimi kuchouconcept is presumably the elevation of femininity within the patriarchal social construct. It is a tangible concept, it pertains to real women; yet elusive as it is a concept.
Entering an Old Text from a New Critical Direction: Matt 26:6-13
Head of School of Theology, Lecturer in New Testament
The words of Adrienne Rich–“Revision–the act of looking back,
of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical
direction” are as applicable today as when she penned them in 1972.
Biblical studies has seen such revisions over the subsequent decades. In
this paper I will explore in dialogue with other revisionists some of my
own revisioning/s of Matt 26:6-13.
“Coconut Juice in a Coca-Cola Bottle.” In search of anIdentity: A New Zealand-born Samoan Christian in a Globalized World
Terry Pouono
Doctoral student (Practical Theology)
Coconut juice in a Coca Cola bottle symbolizes a human reality, that is, the search for identity of a New Zealand-born Samoan Christian in the Congregational Christian Church Samoa (CCCS). The context of my investigation is Auckland. My research project addresses the effects of globalization on Samoan Christian identity. Utilising the tool of intercultural hermeneutics, it critically examines the impact of globalisation in enforcing global concepts of culture on local cultures and contextual theologies. My contention is that identities associated with local theologies are becoming increasingly ambiguous, as a result of intensified intercultural interactions with the global world. This paper is an initial exploration of the question, “Should the coconut juice, which symbolises the Samoan Christian identity, be preserved?” This connects to other questions, such as, “Should the CCCS in New Zealand adopt a new perspective in order really to be an ecumenical church?” “How will the culture of the Samoan people fare under the dynamics of globalisation?” Answers to these lead into critical conversations for the Christian mission of the CCCS as she strives to make the gospel message a living reality in an increasingly hybrid world.
The term oligopistos (“little faith”) in Matthew: Narrative and Thematic Connections and Semantic Purpose
Carlos Olivares 
Doctoral student (Biblical Studies)
The term oligopistos (“little faith”), which is characteristic to Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8), is mentioned in different contexts.  However, despite these differences, it seems that the word displays analogous functions in each one of these occurrences, offering interesting literary insights. It is my intention to engage with such similarities with the objective of seeing narrative and thematic connections and semantic purpose.  Moreover, I will also discuss whether the Matthean Jesus uses ὀλιγόπιστος (“little faith”) as a harsh critique or a sympathetic expression of forbearing.
The Foreshore and Seabed Debate and Jesus’ honour (doxa) in John’s Gospel: a perspective from Aotearoa New Zealand
St John’s College and University of Auckland
Lecturer in New Testament
This paper examines the character and tenor of the Foreshore and Seabed debate in Aotearoa New Zealand through a comparative inter-cultural and contextual analysis of the character, tenor, rhetoric and narrative dynamics of the presentation of Jesus’ honour in John’s Gospel. The Foreshore and Seabed debate, sparked in 2003 by a court ruling in favour of Maori customary land rights in respect of the foreshore and seabed, led to a “backlash” from Pakeha (non-Maori, mainly European New Zealanders) and Government legislation to retain ownership in Crown hands (regarded as “confiscation” of rights by many Maori).
The Maori concept of mana  may be understood analogically with the concept of doxa in John’s Gospel. Hence, Maori attitudes to land ownership resonate with the portrayal of Jesus’ doxa. Furthermore, the dynamics by which the concept of doxa informs the presentation of Jesus’ status and honour in the Gospel may illumine Pakeha attitudes and approaches to resolving this issue (at one level, the tenor of the debate bears resemblance to the stand-off between Jesus and “the Jews” over his honour).
The paper will briefly describe the debate, in particular focusing on the attitudes and reactions of many Pakeha, and the perceptions of some Maori of Pakeha reactions. Does the manner in which the honour and status of Jesus in John’s Gospel is portrayed and developed hold any implications for Pakeha relations with Maori in the resolution of issues surrounding this debate? I will suggest that the character and presentation of Jesus’ doxa in the Gospel has implications for the way in which Pakeha should view Maori aspirations, and how Pakeha attitudes may be informed and shaped by an understanding of the nature of Jesus’ doxa. However, the paper will also necessarily explore the appropriateness and pitfalls of such an approach, as well as examine the promise it holds.
Lisbeth and Leviticus: Biblical Literacy and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Lecturer in Biblical Studies
In his bestselling novel, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson invites his readers into a complex drama set against a backdrop of sexual violence, family dysfunction, and female disempowerment. In one of the multiple strands of the narrative, protagonists Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander uncover a series of brutal ritualistic murders committed against women that appear to be related thematically to particular laws in the biblical book of Leviticus.  I wish to explore the literary function that these allusions to Levitical law are intended to serve within this novel. How are readers being invited to make sense of this biblical material within the wider narrative concerns relating to gendered aggression and, in particular, within the context of the personal and institutionalized sexual aggression and abuse suffered by the character of Lisbeth? Moreover, given its interweaving of biblical traditions within such an explicit context of gender violence, does Larsson’s novel seek to act as a hermeneutical lens on these Levitical laws, inviting a cultural critique from the reader of the seeming endorsement and justification of violence against women that is voiced within these biblical texts?
Next year, ANZABS and STAANZ are meeting up with another acronym to hold a joint conference with ANZATS (Australia and New Zealand Association of Theological Schools). Proposals for papers in all fields of theological study are invited; titles and abstracts should be submitted by 31 March 2013. More details will soon be available on the ANZATS website.

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