Symposium: Manipulating Scriptures

13 October 2023 13:00 to 17:00 conference

Warmly welcome to the open symposium “Manipulating Scriptures” on October 13 at the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies!



13.00-14.00: “The Power of Book Rituals”

James W. Watts, Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Textual Traditions, Syracuse University.

This year, protesters desecrating Qur’ans have prompted large counterprotests and disrupted relationships between nations. The ready availability of mass-produced scriptures provides a powerful ritual means for stirring up political antagonism. This presentation draws on ritual theory and eighteen years of research on scripture desecrations worldwide to suggest that ritual offenses require ritual rectification.


14.00-14.45: “The Feel-Good Bible: Scripture on Social Media”

Hannah Strømmen, Dr. in Biblical Studies and Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Lund University.

Bibles are potent objects in the political arena. Bits of biblical text feature on placards, in speeches and debates. In book form, Bibles are pounded, sworn on, or brandished before a crowd. The political potency of Bibles has long been recognised as useful in the formation of modern national identity and for establishing claims of civilizational superiority. In this presentation, Strømmen analyses contemporary uses of the Bible on social media that pose as apolitical. She argues that contemporary far-right groups promote a feel-good Bible that capitalizes both on recent social media trends and on the tendency to invoke religion to emphasise essential differences between so-called native insiders and foreign outsiders.


14.45-15.15  Coffee break


15.15-16.00: “The Performative Role of Scripture in Colonial Agency”

Sam Kocheri, Dr. in Postcolonial History and Postdoctoral Researcher, Lund University. 

Postcolonial critics who have analysed and critiqued the activities of missionaries through the lens of cultural imperialism have often forgotten the role of the sacred text, the Bible, in the missionary field. Albeit there exist numerous material legacies of the British Empire in its colonies, the extravagant dispersion of the Bible in the colonies, especially during the nineteenth century, raises serious questions about the politics and reasons behind such dissemination. This presentation steps away from the popular fascination with the human element (missionaries) and focuses on the Sacred text, the Bible, and its performative role in the British Colonial agency.


16.00-16.45: “The Politics of Book Desecration in India”

Kristina Myrvold, Visiting Professor of History of Religions, Lund University.

In the fall 2015, unrest erupted in the Indian state Punjab when copies of the Sikh scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, were destroyed at several places. Three years later the Legislative Assembly of the state amended the Indian Penal Code to make acts of sacrilege against religious scriptures punishable with life imprisonment. This presentation looks beyond explanations about contemporary conflicts to see how book desecration has been a primary religious concern within the Sikh tradition and how colonial policies and legislations in the past displaced conflicts onto scriptures and generated politics of sacrilege.

About the event:

13 October 2023 13:00 to 17:00

B:417, Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, LUX-building, Lund University



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