Interview: Kristine Garroway

kristine-henriksen-garroway-phdDr. Kristine Garroway is Visiting Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Hebrew Union College-Los Angeles. She earned her B.A. from Wheaton College, M.A. from Wheaton College, M.Phil. from Hebrew Union College, and Ph.D. from Hebrew Union College.

How did you decide to become a biblical scholar? Share your autobiographical journey.

My answer to this question is always little embarrassing: Indiana Jones. As an incoming college freshman my interests included biology, history, Bible, forensics, and detective novels, so I decided to major in biblical archaeology and become the next Indiana Jones. Silly, right? But in all seriousness, my love for biblical archaeology and ancient Near Eastern history was sparked in the first class I took on biblical archaeology 20 years ago. During my undergrad I participated in a summer Holy Lands tour where I got to see the places I was studying first hand and participate in the Ashkelon excavations. After graduating I continued on for my MA in biblical archaeology, which required me to spend a summer digging at Tel Dor and a semester studying in Israel. I wrote my thesis on the use of architecture in the biblical text. I did my doctoral work at the Hebrew Union College (HUC) in Cincinnati.

After coursework in Cincinnati, I got married and moved to New Haven, CT to be with my husband who was working on his PhD. During our time at Yale, I researched and wrote my dissertation, and also TAed (getting that ever popular “teaching experience”). More teaching experience came when I had the opportunity to adjunct in the classics department at Middlebury. After I finished up classes in VT, I moved to Los Angeles in 2008 and we started a family. (We had three sons between 2008-2012. The fact that I have the career I do would not be possible without the support of my amazing husband.) Between 2008-2011 I continued to do adjunct teaching in LA for the American Jewish University, HUC. I also TAed for some classes at USC and focused on my writing. I joined the faculty of HUC LA in 2011 as Visiting Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible. I teach rabbinical and education students at the seminary and undergraduates at USC through the Loucheim School of Judaic Studies. My first book, Children in the Ancient Near Eastern Household, was published by Eisenbrauns this last fall.

Tell us about your work (past and current). What are you most excited about right now? What do you hope your work will contribute?

My main research focuses on children in the ancient world. I first became interested in studying children when collecting images for a museum exhibit. The image was of children’s footprints from Emar with an inscription inside. The inscription stated that the mother could not take care of her children, so she was selling them to the temple. Seeing the footprints in an isolated context made me realize that if we changed our perspective and focused not on the adults producing the items or the social institutions the artifacts described, then we could use documents like the footprints to shed light on children and their lives in the ANE.

GarrowayBookMy book brings together references on children from the biblical text, ANE legal documents and archaeology. My aim was to demonstrate how the description of children “on paper” matched up with the reality found “on the ground.” While the sources varied in the particulars, all of the materials I researched had one thing in common—they all spoke to a child’s place within the household and society en large. I refer to this “place” as having “membership” in the household. Think of membership in a household like having a membership to a private club. To get in you need a sponsor (parents). You enter with a trial membership (birth) and then receive a basic membership (2-3 years). As you continue to contribute more and more to the club (4ys+), your benefits and eligibilities increase. The more you put in, the more you can get out of it. Just like in a club, the parameters of the membership and the way in which the child relates to the other members is constantly in flux. One could draw out this analogy indefinitely, seeing parallels between being on a tennis team in the spring and on football in the fall (thus perceived as a tennis player by other members and receiving tennis lessons during the spring, but seen as a football player with all that entails in the fall.) So too with a child. A child may be a free born child who is then sold as a debt-slave, or a slave sold to another household, or an orphan girl who is adopted and then promised in marriage. Membership and status in the household is fluid, not fixed. Such a statement counters previous understandings of children, which describe children primarily in binary terms (i.e. slave/free, child/adult, adopted/freeborn).

I am also interested in seeing how gender is developed and replicated through material culture and texts, and how gender affects the experience of a child in different social institutions – think child sacrifice and adoptions. I am also curious to know how gender affects children at different social ages. I would like to continue this work and see if there is anything to be said about the intersection of gender and the development of ethnic identities in children.

Other areas of research that I would like to pursue in the future? I love the Deuteronomistic Histories. If research is like a camera, my general approach is to take the “literary criticism” lens and put a “feminist and gender studies” film over it. I have done some of this in my teaching and in my studies of Bathsheba.

Who has most influenced you as a scholar? Tells us a bit about it.

Carol Meyers has influenced me quite a bit. As one of the first people to combine texts and archaeological data, her methods and theory have been of great interest. Since the field of “childist” studies is in a nascent state, I look to other fields that are trying to do similar things, those reassigning agency and voices to the underrepresented. Those engaging in feminist biblical and historical studies as well as gender theory have been big influences. I have also found Lynn Meskell and the way she parses our archaeological contexts in her Archaeologies of Social Life, as well as Rivkah Harris’ approach to discussing gender and age in texts (Gender and Aging in Mesopotamia) to be of great theoretical influence in the way I study children.

What are the most pressing issues or concerns you have related to the broader field of biblical studies?

I wonder often how biblical studies will continue to fit into college curriculums. In my own experience I have seen fewer and fewer pure Bible classes being offered at liberal arts schools. Religion departments are shifting focus and the hiring process does not always reflect the change. In an age where we are asked to be generalists, the parameters for generalist seem to be changing so that academics who are trained in the biblical studies are now not only being asked to teach world religions, but classes on religions they are not trained in.

Why study the scriptures/biblical text?

As Agatha Christie once said “An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interested he is in her.” While a little flippant, I think that the Bible has some of the same appeal. It is part of the canon of Western literature, and like all great literature it never grows old. New things are always lurking around the corner, waiting to be discovered. It is also part of a religious canon that has dictated much of history.

What do you like to do for fun?

Tennis, yoga, hike, travel, visit museums, read mystery novels

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2 Responses to Interview: Kristine Garroway

  1. Reblogged this on Daniel N. Gullotta and commented:
    A great interview with Dr. Kristine Garroway (Visiting Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible at Hebrew Union College-Los Angeles)


  2. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival – February 2015 |

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