Faculty Research Talk with Megan Case
Title Writing Women in Patriarchal Texts: Trafficked Virgins and Instrumental Agency in Judges 21
At the ending of the infamous story which begins with the rape and death of the Levites wife in Judges 19, the warring tribes of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelites come to a point of peace and reconciliation where society once again runs properly Judg 21 24. Given the near destruction of the Benjaminite tribe only 600 men survive the civil war this resolution can only be achieved through the traffic of non-Benjaminite women as wives. Indeed, Judges 21 contains two reports of wife-giving 400 from Jabesh-Gilead 200 from Shiloh. Feminist interpretations of these accounts generally focus on their dangerous implications as trafficked women, these virgins, much like the Levite s wife in Judges 19, are the victims of rape. Prioritizing this victim mentality ignores the central role these women play in the narrative itself, and in the social world depicted in the narrative. I propose using Mary Keller s theory of instrumental agency as a hermeneutical tool to analyze the role of these trafficked women. A woman as instrumental agency is both the means of change and the location where change occurs. Such a reading challenges Western notions of agency and subjectivity, particularly the common conception that victims have agency only through subversion, transgression, or appropriation. In Judges 21, the victims, the trafficked women, uphold and reproduce their patriarchal society, but without these women as instrumental agency, the civil war could not have been resolved.
Megan L. Case is the Postdoctoral Fellow in Judaic Studies in the Department of Religion and Culture at Virginia Tech. She earned her PhD in Ancient Mediterranean Religions with an emphasis on Hebrew Bible from the University of Texas at Austin in 2016. She has previously held positions at UT Austin and Elon University. Megan is currently working on her first book project on the pre-monarchic, somatic society depicted in Judges 19 21.
Lunch is provided