AAR/SBL Annual Meeting Program
Atlanta , Georgia
22-25 November 2003

Theme: Critical Issues in Spatial Studies

(N.B.: Members' discussions of the papers are posted on this site.    Go to Discussion )

[ Please note:  Papers will not be read or summarized at the meeting but will be posted on this website (guildzone.org) during the next weeks and months.  They should be read by all seminar members and others who plan on attending the session.   Online discussions among seminar members will commence not later than September 1. The session at the Annual Meeting will focus on issues of method and theory raised in the papers and online discussions. For further information please contact Jon L. Berquist   or James W. Flanagan ,   co -chairs.]

Part I:  Critical Issues in Spatial Studies

Presider :  James W.  Flanagan, Case Western Reserve University


William E. Deal, Case Western Reserve University
Discourses of Religious Space


This paper explores ways in which discourses of religious space are articulated from at least three (interrelated) perspectives:

1. Experiences of religious space are typically translated into narratives that become part of discourses with resonances to issues of power, knowledge, subjectivity, and other Foucauldian cultural measures.

2. Contemporary scholarly descriptions of religious space and spatial experiences are often expressed without benefit of any firsthand experience. Yet, academics often talk authoritatively about these spaces. This constitutes an academic discourse of space and has its own problems and peculiarities.

3. Scholarly descriptions of religious space as a generic, cross-cultural category have their own changing discursive history. The discursive logic of, for example, Eliade's notion of sacred space, does not necessarily fit with, say, postmodern notions of religious space. What is at stake in this shifting terminology?
( click here for full paper )


Hayim Lapin, University of Maryland
Towards a Regional History of Later-Roman Palestine: The Making of Provincial Space


The chapter submitted for discussion is part of a larger attempt to bring together archaeological and literary evidence for the articulation of a social geography (e.g., demographic and settlement-pattern change, regional agricultural specialization or its absence, or urbanism) in fourth century Palestine . To do so I made use (with mixed results, and with justified criticism from early reviewers) of central place theory, a framework of regional economic analysis developed in the 1930s and utilized sporadically by social scientists of various stripes since then. The burden of my argument had less to do, however, with a specific theoretical reconstruction than with my central claim that the history of Palestine can and must be studied as a history of provincialization and that provincialization happened spatially. Depending on how we reconstruct the settlement history of Golan, for instance, it is possible that an apparent late-antique Jewish enclave in the lower Golan should not be understood as the stubborn persistence of "traditional" culture, but in part as the development of a regional periphery to a "core" Galilean economy in an now increasingly Christianized empire. Seemingly "indigenous" developments such as the rise of the rabbinic movement seem to be tied to urbanization: third and fourth century rabbis known to us appear to have been part of an urban, literate (sub-) elite. By emphasizing the creation of a provincial landscape operating at several levels at once, we have the opportunity, in this one, relatively well-known spatial and cultural setting, to rethink the intersections of political, material, and cultural processes.
( click here for full paper )


Christl Maier, Yale Divinity School
Daughter  Zion
as a Gendered Space in the Book of Isaiah


Edward W. Soja’s critical spatial theory develops a threefold perspective on space with regard to its materiality, its conception, and its being experienced. This paper aims at using Soja’s theory as a tool to examine the concept of Zion as a mountain and as a city in the book of Isaiah. Because of the city’s strong female personification, especially in the second part of the book, one may assume that the gender of the spatial depiction is crucial. Thus, the feminist relocation of spatial patterns by geographers such as Gillian Rose and Linda McDowell will be used to analyze the function of the feminization of space and the power relations inherent in this image. How were Israelite men and women likely to have experienced this space? How do feminist theologians today think about Zion —deconstructing or re-constructing it as a place worth living in or as a utopia?
( click here for full paper )


William R. Millar, Linfield College
A Bakhtinian Reading of Narrative Space and Its Connection to Social Space


 This paper offers an analysis of Mikhail Bakhtin's understanding of narrative space and its applicability to a recent claim by Claudia Camp, linking narrative space and social space: "Spatial analysis that brings narrative to bear can...provide a window, precisely through literature, into the ancient world."   The method will be tested with selected texts used to reconstruct a history of the Levites.

( click here for full paper )


Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College
Ideology of Apocalyptic Spaces


The spaces of the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse of John, are gendered spaces.   John’s travels take him and the reader across a multitude of terrains, from the throne room of heaven through bloody battlefields and mass slaughter to the chaos of the abyss to the bejeweled heavenly urban space.   One of the most interesting disciplines to shed insight onto biblical texts is "space theory," a critical discourse that includes studies in critical and postmodern spatiality.    In my paper, I am employing an interdisciplinary discussion of the ways that apocalyptic spaces operate in the biblical text and in contemporary U.S. society.  I am looking at the textual and spatial ideologies at work in the gendered nature of space using critical studies of space (Gaston Bachelard and Henri Lefebvre), sexuality and space (Margaret Wertheim), urban and postmodern geography (e.g. Mike Davis, David Harvey, Edward Soja, Yi-fu Tuan), architectural theories (especially postmodernism), utopian studies (Ernst Bloch), and studies of sacred/holy sites of pilgrimage.


The Bible, both the Tanakh and the New Testament, have numerous apocalyptic spaces, and these violent terrains have inspired a variety of millennial movements and cultural expressions in art, literature, and performance. Furthermore, there are numerous current events that lead me to think about the cultural effects of the last book of the New Testament, the Apocalypse of John, in new ways. Two examples of this ongoing apocalyptic culture are the proliferation of both “ endtimes novels about the Rapture and post-Rapture periods and the current fervor in the Bush administration with “the war on terror,” and both of these examples are linked with politics in the Middle East , accompanied by an eschatological agenda of the Christian Right.    I want to investigate how a first century C.E. text that was vilified by part of the early Christian world and that in the current era is generally ignored in more moderate to liberal Christian congregations has such influence as a cultural narrative.    I will be continuing my work in postmodern apocalyptic cultural narratives by a focus on how “space” operates within and beyond the biblical text. After I attended the “pastor’s preview” of the Trinity Broadcast Network’s film, Megiddo, a flashy Hollywood special effects extravaganza of the events leading up to and the final battle on the plains of Megiddo in Israel, I was intrigued by the pumped up patriotic response to such planetary devastation.    In this sequel to the hugely popular film (among certain evangelical Christians) The Omega Code, Antichrist (a U.N. humanitarian leader turned demonic played by Michael York) comes to a final showdown with Christ, as the beleaguered forces of the good nations (led, of course, by the United States) are led into victory against the forces of evil.    These two films, along with Left Behind and others, represent a continuation of, to borrow from Henri Lefebvre, the production of apocalyptic space.   The Rapture industry in contemporary U.S. culture is creating apocalyptic spaces in which the dualities of good (read: believers) and evil (read: nonbelievers) battle until the deity arrives.    I want to look at the way time and space are produced and work in these cultural forms of novels and films as ideological forces.    The “spectacle” (a term from Guy Debord ) of the endtime can be entered into through countless fictionalized accounts.   But the spaces created by these fictions are never innocent but are highly politically and ideologically charged narratives.
( click here for full paper )


Discussion: 90 minutes


Break: 10 minutes

Part II:   Discussion on Historiography and Spatiality

Presider :  James W. Flanagan, Case Western Reserve University


David M. Gunn, Texas Christian University
Spatial Analysis in Modern Historiography Relating to the Book of Judges


A report of some results from a preliminary investigation of spatial analysis used in historiography related to the book of Judges.    Samples examined will be drawn from both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

( click here for full paper )


Burke O. Long, Bowdoin College
Picturing the Past: The Use of Illustrations in Recent Presentations of Biblical History


This seminar activity interrogates the uses of drawings, maps, and photographs in several recent accounts of biblical history. It views the interaction of text and visual image as both occasion and artifact of a historian's socio-spatial practices. By interrogating these artifacts, I seek to discover unexamined notions of biblical and Holy Land space embedded in narratives that typically focus not on space, but on persons, groups ,   events, and sometimes arguments over how to reach objective results. I seek the cultural, social, historical, political, and ideological entanglements that disrupt not only methodological disputes, but the unifying rhetoric of settled factuality or weighted probability built into such illustrated presentations of the past.

( click here for full paper in pdf )

( click here for full paper in HTML)


Keith William Whitelam, University of Sheffield
Space and the Poetics of Historiography

( click here for full paper in pdf )

            ( click here for full paper in HTML)


Discussion: 30 minutes


Business Meeting


Presider :  James W. Flanagan, Case Western Reserve University


20 minutes