Interview: Rebekah Hanson


University of Chichester

Areas of Interest/Research:

Biblical reception in digital culture

What is it about your field that you love researching?

I enjoy exploring the creative things people do with the Bible which demonstrates how people experience the Bible in different ways. 

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

When I write about ‘The Bible’ I am aware that I’m not referring to one single text, but a variety of texts that can be encountered through different mediums like film, artwork, sound recordings, etc.  The context in which the Bible is encountered in connection with the format in which it is presented is important for understanding the varied impact it might have in different times and places.   

What is your current research about?

I’m exploring the ‘prosumer’ reception of the Bible in digital culture. As I was reading more and more about digital culture as my research took shape, I encountered the term ‘prosumer’, which refers to a shift in perceptions of consumer culture, whereby people increasingly identify as proactive producers and consumers of culture rather than simply ‘passive’ consumers, thus empowering certain digital forms of participation and creative activity. So I’m wondering how this might affect biblical reception in non-institutionally affiliated (that is, not directly associated with institutions like church/academia) digital spaces like fan fiction communities, meme sharing contexts, and DIY Bible production.  I’m in the second year of a part-time PhD so I’ve still got a long way to go but the research is pretty exciting and interesting so far.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

My supervisor, Dr Hannah Strømmen, is one of my academic heroes. I first encountered biblical reception history in one of her modules during my MA in Public Theology. Prior to that my main academic approach to the Bible had been through biblical studies and biblical criticism modules. Her approach to the Bible challenged me in new ways to reflect on how the Bible is engaged with and perceived in different cultures and contexts. She then later became my MA dissertation supervisor, and is now one of my PhD supervisors. I admire her curiosity and enthusiasm, and she certainly challenges me to think creatively about the Bible. Also as we are both women of around the same age, her academic advice and perspective are easily relatable. 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

Jeffrey Siker’s book, Liquid Scripture: The Bible in a Digital World raises many important questions about the relation between the Bible and technology. In particular, his book helps me reflect on the ways in which the Bible is presented in different formats. I also keep coming back to the book, Making is Connecting: The Social Power of Creativity, from Craft and Knitting to Digital Everything by David Gauntlett, which isn’t about the Bible, but discusses the creative opportunities of digital culture which helps inform the questions I ask about the Bible in digital culture in my research. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

In 2017 I was runner-up in an essay contest put on by World Congress of Faiths who asked entrants to respond to the question, ‘If One Faith is True, Does this Mean All Others Are False?’, and my essay was featured in the December 2017 edition of their journal Interreligious Insight. I also recently had a dual book review published in Modern Believing concerning two interesting (or so I thought!) books that have recently been published, The Bible and Digital Millennials by David G Ford, Joshua L Mann and Peter M Phillips, and The Bible, Social Media and Digital Culture by Peter M Phillips. I also recently collaborated on putting together a theology quiz for the Winter 2020 edition of the Modern Church newsletter Signs of the Times. Finally, I contribute weekly reflections on prayer life to the Instagram account (@hhprayer) for Hidden Houses of Prayer.

Where can we follow you online?

I have personal social media accounts and I run the Hidden Houses of Prayer and my church’s Instagram accounts. However, I currently don’t have a social media presence directly related to my academic work. 

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

I am happy to talk about food – anywhere from recipes to cherished foods of my childhood (or yours) to cooking disasters to memorable restaurant experiences. For some reason, talking about food usually helps me feel less socially awkward! 

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

I’m in the early stages of contributing a chapter to a volume on contextual biblical interpretation. The volume aims to explore the contours of contextual biblical interpretation and to develop further theoretical approaches in this field. I’ll be focusing on digital culture as a source of reflection on contextual biblical interpretation.  

>> Thank you so much, Rebekah, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

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