Wednesday, June 29, 2005
SBL International: Singapore ::

In this post I will mention highlights of the conference so far for me, and inevitably this will be a highly personal list -– we each only see the sessions we attend. In a semi-separate post below I will also try to give some impressions of the city.

SBL International ::

The highlight has been the participation of Asian scholars, compared with previous SBLI that I have attended (not necessarily in order ! Strasbourg, Jerusalem, Leuven, Sheffield, Cape Town) which were mainly white faced, and (with the exception of Cape Town) a roughly 50/50 mix of European and North American, this SBLI has a high participation by Asian scholars. (And also Ausies and Kiwis, though we hardly correct the race balance, shame there are no other South Pacific representatives!_*_) The historic Euramerican domination of academic theology is still present, chatting to several delegates from Indonesia I discovered that we all did our PhDs in Glasgow, perhaps next time a "reunion" is called for, like the Aussie group who are meeting for coffee on Thursday. (I wonder if Kiwis are part of greater Australia for these purposes?) The Asian scholar whose presentation I found the most stimulating was the Korean, Taek Joo Woo, who spoke on "Rhetorical force of the Marzeah institution in Amos 6:1-7". It had everything: Amos, that intriguing institution that combined booze-up, religion, food and ancestor cult while surviving in most Levantine cultures for thousands of years, and a chance to discuss his interesting ideas on the problematic verse 2 with him afterwards!

Another highlight was (Did I blog this yesterday? I do miss an Internet connection, though if I'd stayed at the expensive conference hotel I doubt I'd have been tempted enough to cough up $20 per DAY for the luxury on top of the room charges!) sitting near Heather McKie after my paper passing notes back and forth as we each developed an idea of hers in different directions into the embryos of two very different possible future papers. Mine titled "Man bites dog" would focus on the narrative in Amos 7:10-17 and explore authorisation and un-authorisation in that text, hers would explore biblical talk of harlot wives.

John Hill, of Yarra Theological Union, was another whose paper provoked me to discussion after the session. He explored the differences between the MT and LXX editions of Jeremiah to highlight ways in which MTJer might be read as a dissident text, in its second temple context. Not least for me this highlighted once again how much we lack a commentary that parallels the two texts, an obvious possibility where electronic presentation would have advantages over print! Why is it that -– at a time when the priority of the MT is far from evident -– the scholarly community has "canonised" the MT at the expense of the LXX?

Singapore ::

Is a booming buzzing cacophony, full of lights and movement. The streets are filled, 24/7 it seems, by people of many races busily living with gusto and panache. Foods stalls, or in the upmarket area near the conference "courts", offer delicacies from many different and/or blended Asian cuisines. And a good dinner costs only a few dollars. A part of me imagines living in such an environment with longing, but in real life I could not stand the constant noise and confusion.

I need peace!

I've retreated to my hotel room to write this
post, prior to an early night, but still there is chatter from the corridors, the hum of traffic and air conditioner, and an air of busyness that I imagine I can smell from the streets outside.

That the population of the city-state is drawn from the Chinese diaspora, Malays, Indians and Indonesians, with a good sprinkling of others means that here a different skin and accent do not mark one out as a foreigner and so the object of curious stares. I've never been to a place so welcoming. It is also clean and safe.

* I apologise if I have failed to notice anyone, since my first SBLI the numbers attending have shot up and it is no longer guaranteed that one can spot everyone, the loss of a family-feel is (despite this comment) compensated for by the greater richness of background!

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