2012/13 Christopherson Knott Fellows
Professor Lewis Ayres (Theology and Religion)
Professor Lewis Ayres is Professor of Catholic and Historical Theology in the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham. His work focuses on the development of early Christian belief, and on modern Catholic engagement with and appropriation of early Christianity. While a fellow he will be working on a project called “The Rise of Christian Exegetical Culture AD 150-250”.
The manner in which early Christians read their scriptures deeply influenced subsequent western thought. Because early Christians considered it possible to fill out terms and hints in scripture with classical philosophical ideas, the classical tradition – often cannibalised and reconfigured – became an intrinsic part of our cultural heritage. Similarly, Christian conception of allegory shaped for centuries the manner in which western thinkers considered the relationship between language and reality.
This project will offer a radically new account of how this exegetical culture originated and of how we should understand its distinctive contribution. Existing scholarship assumes that Christians drew on Jewish tradition, but inevitably adopted the reading methods of Greek and Roman literary analysis as Christianity spread through the Roman Empire. Professor Ayres will argue that, in fact, internal doctrinal disputes were the context in which Christian adapted classical literary criticism.
Professor Ayres will contend that it was in dispute with Gnostic interpreters, who viewed scriptural texts as necessarily enigmatic, that the architects of ‘orthodox’ Christianity adapted from anti-allegorical classical traditions a vision of a bounded scripture whose literal statements were quasi-historical even as they also revealed an immaterial divine. Classical modes of literary criticism consonant with such rhetoric were then adapted to serve Christian religious ends. The allegorical was re-founded as a style of reading that did not deny the literal.
Understanding this narrative of origins will allow better insight into how Christian exegetical culture influenced later thought. During the fellowship Professor Ayres will complete part of a book for OUP.
Dr Nayanika Mookherjee (Anthropology)
Dr Nayanika Mookherjee is a Reader in socio-cultural anthropology specialising in anthropology of violence, memory and state; aesthetics, memorialisation, political kinship, South Asia and ethics. During her Christopherson/Knott fellowship she will be pursuing a project on transnational adoption entitled ‘Boundaries of Blood’.
Dr Mookherjee’s research will explore the consequences of the Bangladesh war for the social, kinship, and political identities of ‘war-babies’ (children born as a result of rape by Pakistani armies of Bangladeshi women) in the light of the return of adult ‘war-babies’ to Bangladesh in the 1990s from Western countries where they had been adopted. Data collection will focus on ‘war-babies’ of different socio-economic and regional backgrounds. This interdisciplinary research will draw on approaches from anthropology, political science, science studies, and deploy qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The project aims to contribute to the scholarship on survival strategies and well-being of children affected by warfare and the production of an ethnographically informed human rights policy. In the process the researcher will develop quantitative, theoretical and comparative skills in the field of kinship, new genetics, and international adoption, as well as policy-oriented skills in the field of human rights. The research also seeks to examine the impact of transracial and transnational adoption – a theme which has received a lot of focus recently within UK.
This research project would enhance Anthropology’s and the University’s strong reputation for research in theoretical and applied aspects of socio-cultural anthropology particularly in the area of political anthropology, new reproductive technologies, Asian infertilities and the public culture research cluster. It will establish significant links with the Department of Law in Durham University and research on migration and citizenship within the department of Geography.
Professor Pamela Clemit (English Studies)
Pamela Clemit has research interests in the political prose of the 1790s, the Godwin/Shelley circle, and letters and journals.
During her Christopherson/Knott Fellowship, Professor Clemit will be editing The Letters of William Godwin Vol. II (1798-1805), which is part of the Oxford University Press edition of The Letters of William Godwin (6 vols.), publishing all of Godwin's letters for the first time. This is an international collaborative project, of which Professor Clemit is the General Editor. William Godwin (1756-1836) was a leading radical political philosopher, novelist, and social thinker of the British Enlightenment, who came to prominence in the early 1790s. The impact of his social theories was acknowledged by almost every significant literary figure in Britain for the next quarter-century, and his influence endured much longer in Europe. He was the author of Caleb Williams (1794), one of the great novels of the 18th century, and of An Enquiry concerning Political Justice (1793), a founding text of philosophical anarchism; the husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, the early advocate of women's rights; the father of Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein (1818); and the father-in-law of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Vol. II includes around 300 fully annotated letters newly transcribed from original manuscripts. It records a major period of transition in Godwin's life and thought, and illuminates the cultural history of his times. The principal readership is scholars in a wide range of disciplines, including literature, history, politics, philosophy, law, and women's studies. As a standard reference work, the edition will also become a source for non-academic readers, such as biographers of members of the Godwin/Shelley circle, curators of exhibitions on these and cognate subjects, and the general public. The project is foundational: it makes available new primary materials. It thus presents 'transformative research' which '[shapes] academic disciplines' and has a 'significant impact on knowledge' (www.dur.ac.uk/research/strategy/).