Whiteness, conviviality and agency: the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) and conceptuality in the imperial imagination of biblical studies

PhD Thesis


Rhamie, G. 2019. Whiteness, conviviality and agency: the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) and conceptuality in the imperial imagination of biblical studies. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University School of Humanities
AuthorsRhamie, G.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDegree of Doctor of Philosophy
Abstract

This dissertation is haunted by the vexed, yet slippery question, “why cannot the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 be a Jew?” Given the multivalent registers of the question, I turn to cultural studies, especially postcolonial studies, to procure analytical tools that allow me to interrogate the conceptuality of different texts, ancient and modern, that comment on the Ethiopian eunuch’s ethnoreligious agency.

In pursuit of this hermeneutic, and with the aid of scholars such as Stuart Hall, Paul Gilroy, Audrey Thompson, Sanjay Subrahmanyam, Charles Mills,Courtney Goto, and Richard Burton, postcolonial studies is demonstrated to yield two epistemological lenses with which readings on the Ethiopian eunuch are examined: whiteness and ‘critical conviviality’. Whiteness,characterised by a Cartesian gaze, is employed in the function of deconstructing, while ‘critical conviviality’, a new hermeneutic characterised by notions of ‘collectivist hospitality’, ‘connected histories’, ‘as if’ and ‘the carnivalesque’, encourages opening one’s conceptuality in a multidimensional way, functioning to reconstruct analyses for his agency.

Upon examination of the first commentators, i.e., the early Church Fathers,the Ethiopian eunuch’s ethnoreligious agency is discovered to have shifted from an Afroasiatic Jewish one to a Graeco-Gentile one. The anti-Jewish discourse of the time as reflected by the Adversus Judaeos trope, functioned teleologically to aid and abet the Church Fathers’ biblical interpretations to achieve this particular religious-political ideal type. In more recent years, a Eurocentric, Cartesian gaze, framed by the logics of Euromodernity, has largely identified the Ethiopian eunuch along the spectrum of a Graeco-Roman Gentile to a not-quite-a-Jew. His being denied a Jewish identity appears to foreclose an exploration of a dynamic agency that could open up new opportunities and possibilities of (re-)conceptualising (nonrabbinic) Jewish history, Acts’s centrifugal plot, and the complex, conjunctural sites of Christian origins. Essentially, the imperial, racialised imagination cannot recognise him as a Jew because he is African, because he is black. In the final analysis, the dissertation asserts that ‘Black lives matter’ for Jewishness in the book of Acts and for Christian origins.

KeywordsWhiteness; Conviviality ; Ethiopian eunuch; Conceptuality; Agency; Biblical studies; Religious studies
Year2019
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Open
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Publication process dates
Deposited19 Dec 2019
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https://repository.canterbury.ac.uk/item/8q225/whiteness-conviviality-and-agency-the-ethiopian-eunuch-acts-8-26-40-and-conceptuality-in-the-imperial-imagination-of-biblical-studies

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