SBL Auckland – Wednesday and Thursday

Wednesday was a short day for presentations – the afternoon was left free for excursions or doing whatever else you wanted. I gather that this is not a usual SBL thing, but is what I’m used to at chaplains’ conferences.

In the morning, I presented my paper, which seemed to have been well received. Majella (ie my doctoral supervisor) was encouraging about both content and presentation, which was nice. The only other paper I heard was the second paper in my unit (actually the third, but the middle presenter was unable to come because his church had moved him between when he submitted and the conference and he couldn’t get away – again a pity because I would have liked to have heard it). Carol Newsom from Emory presented on Eudaimonic and Hedonic Dimensions of Israelite Wisdom Traditions: An Exploration. She talked about the different understandings of human happiness that are presented in Proverbs and Qohelet and her abstract explains things far better than I could do.  The link will take you to the on-line program booklet and you will need to type “Newsom” into the name box then follow the link on the page you are taken to.

In the afternoon, I went on a Maori culture tour which I found somewhat disappointing from the perspective of learning about Maori culture, but the views from the volcano we were taken to were spectacular.  When Photobucket decides to cooperate, I’ll put in a link to the photos I took.

I spent most of Thursday in AGMs.  In the morning, I attended the Australian Association for the Study of Religion AGM, which began with two annual lectures – the Penny Magee lecture and the Charles Strong lecture.  This year’s Penny Magee lecture was presented by Barbara Kameniar from University of Melbourne.  She talked about women’s ordination in Thai Buddhism and was fascinating.  The same link above will take you to her abstract, too.  The Charles Strong lecture was by Marion Maddox from Macquarie University, whose topic was ‘There Isn’t a Racist Bone in My Body’: Race and Religion in the Vocabulary of Fear – same thing with the link. The significance of the title is that John Howard, our former Prime Minister became famous for saying “there isn’t a racist bone in my body” after having been called, on several occasions, for having been the architect of a number of particularly racist policies.

After morning tea, the retiring president of AASR, Kathleen McPhillips from University of Western Sydney, gave the presidential address in which she was less than encouraging about the immediate future for Studies in Religion in Australian universities and we then moved to the usual business of an AGM.

After lunch, I went to hear Scott Charlesworth from University of New England (ie my own university) talking about fluidity in early Christian manuscripts.  Scott is in the process of making minor corrections to his thesis/dissertation and expects to graduate at the October ceremonies.  He has examined papyri at both University of Edinburgh and University of Michigan as well as various facsimiles.  The conclusion he has reached after painstaking examination of large numbers of early MSS is that “although scribes made minor detail changes, the early textual tradition was transmitted accurately en bloc. Therefore, the assumption that high fluidity characterised early transmission is unfounded.”  On the basis of his presentation, I’m not sure that I would be quite as confident as he is that some of the changes that he talks about are minor – I guess I’ll have to have a look at the dissertation once it reaches the university library in a few months.

I then slipped into the Women Scholars of Theology and Religion AGM.  WSTR is an association with a commitment to facilitating networks among women scholars of religion and theology with a view to supporting, encouraging and promoting their work in the Asia/Pacific region and beyond.  It publishes an on-line journal called Sea Changes which has an interesting range of articles by women scholars from Australia, Aotearoa/New Zealand and the Asia/Pacific region.  Because the criteria (apart from being scholarly) is that they be from a feminist perspective and from the region of Australasia and the Pacific, the content is eclectic, but worth looking at.

I missed the new book launches in the interests of being packed in time to check out shortly after 8 am the next day.  The books themselves looked interesting, but I needed some time.  I did, however, get to the Reception hosted by the Auckland Uni school of theology, where I was able to catch up with several people I’d not had a chance to talk to much during the conference.  I opted out of the trip to the Irish pub, feeling that 9.45 pm was too late to begin an evening out.

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