Prof Juliana Claassens, Chair of the Department Old and New Testament at Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Theology, aims to “give a voice to women who have struggled throughout biblical times against persecution" in her book
Claiming Her Dignity. She has recently won third place in the Gender Issues category at the Catholic Press Association (CPA) 2017 Book Awards for this work.
“This award the Catholic Press Association is an important recognition of Prof Claassens' work, and from her side a truly remarkable achievement! Claiming her Dignity: Female Resistance in the Old Testament represents the apex of Prof Claassens' academic work of the past ten years," said Prof Elna Mouton of SU's Faculty of Theology. “It explores and imaginatively retells a number of stories from the Old Testament in which women responded in seemingly small but effective acts of nonviolent resistance to the brutalities of war, rape, systemic injustice, and poverty."
Prof Claassens is also Head of the Theology Faculty's newly formed Gender Unit.
“One of the Unit's explicit aims is “resisting gender injustice by fostering a more complex understanding of gender"," Mouton said. “Prof Claassens' book is a major contribution towards such a richer yet more complex understanding of gender, through stimulating interdisciplinary research on the intersection of Gender, Health, and Theology informed by concrete community needs."
“The stories of women resisting the violence of war, rape, patriarchy and poverty in the Old Testament that I include in this book draw our attention in the first instance to the many situations where violence, both overt and subtle, on a daily basis continue to cause great harm in the lives of especially women and children," said Prof Claassens of her work. “However, as I conclude my book, 'the brave, creative, and nonviolent acts of resistance of the women in this volume that draw our attention to women all around us who are standing up for justice should indeed inspire us to work for a kinder, more just world in which women, men, and children may truly flourish'."
'Claiming Her Dignity' was published by Liturgical Press, which ultimately scooped twenty-three awards at the CPA 2017 Book Awards.
Picture: In 2 Samuel 21:10, one encounters Rizpah, the widow of King Saul, lamenting the heartless killing of her two sons as well as the sons of her stepdaughter Merab. She is said to keep a six-month vigil “from the beginning of the harvest until the rains poured down on them from the heavens” for these victims of violence. Rizpah emerges as one of the prime examples of female resistance in the face of violence in the biblical text, says Claassens.