2014 Scholars

Vaughan Park Scholar in Residence

 Dr. Julie Thorpe (Australia)

Julie received her PhD in History from the University of Adelaide in 2007 and from 2007-2009 held visiting research and teaching positions at the AustDr_Julie_Thorpe_photo.jpgralian National University and University of Konstanz, Germany; Julie was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant for a study of World War One refugees in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the role of the international community in responding to the empire's displaced populations. She also has an interest in Catholic pilgrimage in Central Europe in the twentieth century.

Julie's project explores the role of silence in traumatic histories, drawing on the interdisciplinary work of scholars of pilgrimage, war and memory. The specific focus is an ethnographic collection of textiles embroidered by wartime refugees in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War that were sold to the Austrian Museum for Folk Culture after the war. The objects will be exhibited in Vienna in 2014 as part of the centenary commemorations of the war. Julie's role in working with the museum is to place the collection in its historical context, and to write (or stitch) silence into the history of these lost threads of war.

The role of silence in traumatic histories relates more broadly to a liberal tradition that removes religion to the private realm, but allows the return of the sacred into the state through mourning and commemorative practices. Yet there is a specific connection between the sacred and stories of dispossession in the etymological relationship between 'hospitality' and 'hostility'. This connotation of the sacred as something that is untouchable, and associated with both hosting and hating, has resonance with traumatic histories. If silence can be framed in the context of the sacred, and not just the politics of repression and essentialist debates about who has the right to speak, then declaring stories of dispossession sacred by making them accessible in the present through the absences of the past, will also require empathic responses that disrupt and displace conventional narratives about the past.


Resident Scholar

Dr. Robert Myles (NZ)

Robert recently completed his PhD in Theology at the University of Auckland, receiving a place on the Dean of Graduate Studies List for excellence in robert_myles.jpgdoctoral research. A revised version of his thesis is due to be published in 2014 by Sheffield Phoenix Press, entitled The Homeless Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew. 

Robert's research focuses on the interaction between the Bible and contemporary culture and politics. His current research project,The Bible and Class Struggle, draws on Marxist criticism to investigate the extent to which social class has been engaged by recent configurations of feminist, minority, postcolonial, and ecological approaches to the Bible. During his time at Vaughan Park, he will work on a section dealing with ecological approaches to the Bible in light of class and capitalism. How, for example, is climate change refracted through global capital to accentuate its underlying logics of inequality? While some eco-theologians and biblical scholars have called for a shift from liberation theology's "preferential option for the poor" to a more inclusive "preferential option for the Earth", Robert intends to determine whether this shift ends up displacing the concept of class struggle from its scope of analysis, and the relevance of class to ecological interpretations of the Bible.

Jesus was a hobo, academic claims

HOBO JESUS: The son of God would probably have faced persecution these days too.
A thesis that concludes Jesus Christ was crucified because he was a hobo has won the top scholarly prize at Auckland University.
And if he were alive today he would probably be persecuted for the same reasons, says Dr Robert Myles , whose paper "Jesus the Bum: An Ideological Reading of Homelessness in the Gospel of Matthew" won the Auckland University vice-chancellor's award for the best doctoral thesis. It was chosen from 321 entries.
The idea of the Son of God wrapped in a tatty blanket and living on the streets is the antithesis of the modern day notion of Jesus as the world's saviour - but Myles says it's the most probable explanation of his life: one of forced displacement, political turmoil and instability. And besides, the Bible does say Jesus had "nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58).
"The impression you might see of Jesus on television - he will not have dirt on his face. He might be seen as a homeless person, but never a bum. The offensiveness of homelessness and the depravity of it is extracted. But this would have been one of the factors that led to his execution by the ruling elite - he appeared as a criminal and an outsider."
And if the Messiah were alive now, he would be just as shunned by society, Myles said. "People are forced into homelessness by political and social factors but often it's blamed on the individual."
Auckland University head of theology Elaine Wainwright said Myle's theory was controversial. "Other studies tend to idealise Jesus and paint homelessness as a choice he makes. [Myles] puts in the context that homelessness is not a choice, but a very gritty reality. It's a completely new twist."
St John's College Reverend Karen Kemp welcomed a fresh perspective on Jesus's life but to reduce his humanity and divinity into one category of homelessness was wrong. He was an more of an itinerant leader, she said.