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Dr Christina Petterson

Research Associate

School of Humanities and Social Science

The ties that bind: Religion, radicalism and the written word

Looking at Christianity through the lenses of theology, history and cultural theory, Dr Christina Petterson's critical text-based study is seeking to evaluate its influence on the switch from feudalism to capitalism and other evolving socioeconomic structures.

Christina Petterson 

Much like an engineer, Petterson is in the habit of deconstructing and reassembling. She's pulling apart ideologies in literature and the ideologies of other scholars in her research, attempting – and succeeding – to make sense of early modern Europe and early Christian writing. Though labelling the former as her 'primary focus,' and the latter as a 'very productive hobby,' the theologian concedes analyses of religious texts have become valuable supplementary sources of information in these explorations of continental life throughout the 15th-18th centuries.

'I undertook biblical studies during my Masters degree at Copenhagen University but I've since kept this up,' she declares.

'I wanted to use my theology knowledge in a different way.'

Petterson is similarly looking to examine the relationship between structures of discourse and structures of power in her investigation, drawing parallels between the development of scriptures and the disruption and development of colonial legacies. 

'I'm working across languages, countries and time periods to question interpretations of the New Testament and their role in the emergence and consolidation of widespread social changes in different parts of the world,' she explains.

'I'm also tracing and teasing out academic understandings of the passages from the 1st and 2ndcenturies to now.'

A Dane in Greenland

After completing her studies in native Denmark, Petterson took up residency as a visiting theology lecturer at the University of Greenland. Gradually becoming 'enamoured' with post-colonial biblical studies during her 6-12 week stints, the experienced traveller began to realise the two countries have more in common than once thought – and more in common with Protestant ideology than had previously been documented.

'At first, Greenland was a weird and depressing place,' she reveals.

'In spite of increasing domestic independence, it still seemed in so many ways to be an outpost of Danish colonialism.'

'I hadn't expected this, and so decided to look into it further when I left.'

Sparking her interest in Protestantism and its role in the implementation of racial hierarchies, gender roles and abstract social relations in Greenlandic society, this research prompted a move to Australia for a four-year PhD candidateship in the mid 2000s. Adopting Foucault's idea of governmentality to explore these links between structures of domination and individual implications in self-domination, Petterson's cultural studies thesis sought to explain how and why the Danish mission to Greenland became the primary trigger for its colonisation in the 1720s.

'Danish Protestantism instilled class ideals in the middle sections of Greenlandic society,' she affirms.

'So the country's middle class is not only a product of these efforts, but also – and more broadly – of Danish colonialism.'

'Colonisation took place in support of the missionaries.'

At the same time showing ideas of colonialism 'go much deeper' than just between coloniser and colonised, Petterson's research detected a long-term interest in upholding colonial power structures within Greenlandic middle classes.

'Certain segments of Greenlandic society have taken colonialist views upon themselves and their countrymen are reproducing them,' she asserts.

'Indigenous politics are much more complex than we usually assume.'

'They're about more than just identity – they're also about class, economy, development, education and social issues.'

These findings were published in late 2014 by one of the oldest and preeminent presses in Europe.  

Inescapable biases

Continuing to be inspired by post-colonial biblical scholarship during her PhD candidature, Petterson undertook an analysis of space in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  Looking primarily at Christian understandings of land in Israel and Palestine, the bilinguist sought to dispel belief in the 'complete neutrality' of New Testament studies.

'People in this field often think their work has no political implications,' she clarifies.

'But I was able to show they do support a certain idea of the Holy Land, as well as the occupation of Palestine.'

This research article was well-received in the academic domain, with Petterson invited to pen another volume in the Journal of Sino Christian Studies' supplement series that same year.  Closely following publication of the Hebrews inquest, her concentration on Acts of the Apostles led to an exploration of the relationship between the New Testament and the Roman Empire.

'Traditionally, that half of the Bible is seen as either opposed to the Empire or completely hand in glove with it,' she states.

'But I wanted to see it as a product written down and thought out within the Empire.'

'I think it's impossible for the New Testament to stand and point fingers at Roman rule given the political structures of the 1stcentury.'

Moving out of biblical studies and into cultural and colonial studies allowed Petterson to question the objectivity of these enduring ideologies, positioning her far enough away that she could see how previous research efforts had been designed around 'certain presuppositions and parameters.' Coming from a different background also enabled the globetrotter to develop a number of criticisms of literature written on Acts of the Apostles and find new ways of thinking about its ties to Roman rule.

'I studied pre-existing ideas of the Empire, as well as the biases scholars working with the New Testament bring to those ideas,' Petterson reveals.

'Even academics who don't advocate a particular confessional stance still tend to have extremely conservative opinions about Christianity and its political structures, and this is something that's rarely examined.'

Man and myth

Transferring her focus to the Gospel of John, Petterson is currently exploring literature's role in the construction of virtual realities.  The 2014 winner of the Vice Chancellor's Award for Research Excellence in the Faculty of Education and Arts is starting quite literally from scratch in this research, experimenting with the assumption that there is no historical Jesus.

'The Gospel of John only uses the term 'body' in reference to his dead body,' she argues.

'So it's trying to present itself as an absolute presence – one that isn't reliant on a physical being.'

'This creation of a body abstracted from reality is unlike that of the other gospels.'

Petterson is surveying a number of texts in her consideration of the term's theological value, including readings on classical understandings of language and Gnostic Christianity's 'Gospel of Truth' in which there is a comparable 'bizarre' lack of necessary context. 

'I want to see whether the idea of a text speaking as Jesus would be as weird in the 1st century as it is today,' she adds.

'I suspect it's not.'

Tentatively titling her hardback 'The Empty Tomb and the Death of the Body,' Petterson is set to publish the findings in 2015.

The trials and tribulations of transition

In another move away from pure biblical studies, Petterson is looking at the theological use of Ephesians in the 18thcentury and its use in current scholarship. She's also relating the study to an offshoot research project on the Moravian Brethren, which is examining the radical Pietist East German sect's reliance on the book in its articulation of a particular marriage ideology.

'The Brethren were regarded as dangerous because they disrupted ideas of household by creating an alternative arrangement that saw the community divided into groups, such as single men, married women, boys and girls,' the historiographer explains.

'In doing so, it opened up different ways of living and working.'

'This similarly meant Ephesian's interesting questions about gender – which see the congregation as the bride of Christ and therefore men as fulfilling the role of both wife and husband – were not a problem for those in the Brethren.' 

Petterson will be using the speeches of religious and social reformer, Count Zinzendorf, in further scrutinies of these strict gender segregations, analysing the aristocrat's words within a Marxist understanding of history. With the collection 'a shade under 400,' the research academic is anticipating an observable shift in philosophy as early modern Europe switched from feudalism to capitalism.

'At the time, lots of things – including gender – were up in the air,' she divulges.

'So I think it's possible to see the Brethren as trying to deal with these transitions, and I think it's possible to see Ephesians as trying to deal with transitions in the 1st and 2ndcenturies.'

Full circle

In the middle of preparing a grant application to examine Moravian missions to both Greenland and Australia, Petterson is soon to return to the original source of her research – a mutually beneficial relationship with two new home countries. The Danish native is hoping to discover the Brethren's strategies changed dramatically following the developments of capitalism, with the mission to Australia lasting just half a century and the one to Greenland, many years before, more than double that time.

'I'm planning to explore their interactions with Indigenous peoples and politics,' she advises.

'I'll analyse whether changes in attitude were in any way connected to the emergence of a global economy and the role of missions within it.'

Dr Christina Petterson

The ties that bind: Religion, radicalism and the written word

Looking at Christianity through the lenses of theology, history and cultural theory, Dr Christina Petterson's critical text-based study is seeking to evaluate its influence on the switch from feudalism to capitalism and other evolving socioeconomic structures. Much like an engineer,…

Read more

Career Summary

Biography

Research Expertise
My research interests are divided into two fields, between which I oscillate: early modern Europe and New Testament Studies. My interests in European history in the 15th to 18th centuries are focussed on social change, the role of Christianity and the emergence and consolidation of capitalism, including colonialism and missions. My PhD thesis was on the relationship between Protestant ideology and colonialism in the Danish mission to Greenland and how Protestantism helped implement racial hierarchies, gender roles and abstract social relations in Greenlandic society. My interest in New Testament relate to questions of method, language, economics and interpretation. My current work deals with John's gospel, but I have also done work in Hebrews, Ephesians, and the Acts of the Apostles. I am working on two books: One which deals with the relationship between text and the body of Jesus in John's gospel. Rather than a religious study, I would regard this as a philosophical exploration of the relationship between text and reality, and the ideology of writing in our understandings of body and death. The other book is based on archival studies of 400 speeches given by the founder of the Moravian Brethren (Herrnhuter Brüdergemeine), Count Zinzendorf to the congregation in Herrnhut (eastern Germany) in the mid-eighteenth century. The speeches are in handwritten German, and are fabulous sources to the changes in social relations, the establishment of gender roles, and individualisation.

Qualifications

  • Doctor of Philosophy, Macquarie University
  • Master of Research, University of Copenhagen - Denmark
  • Master of Theology, University of Copenhagen - Denmark

Keywords

  • 18th Century
  • Christianity
  • Colonialism
  • Gender
  • Language Ideology
  • Marxist History
  • Moravian Brethren
  • New Testament

Languages

  • Danish (Fluent)

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
160805 Social Change 35
210307 European History (excl. British, Classical Greek and Roman) 35
220401 Christian Studies (incl. Biblical Studies and Church History) 30

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Research Associate University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/10/2011 - 1/09/2013 Postdoctorate Research Fellow

Graduate College:

Gender as a Category of Knowledge

Humboldt University
Germany
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (4 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2014 Petterson C, The Missionary, the Catechist and the Hunter: Foucault, Protestantism and Colonialism, Brill, Leiden, 212 (2014) [A1]
2014 Boer R, Petterson C, Idols of Nations: Biblical Myth at the Origins of Capitalism, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 208 (2014) [A1]
Co-authors Roland Boer
2012 Petterson C, Acts of Empire: The Acts of the Apostles and Imperial Ideology, Chung Yuan Christian University, Taiwan, 142 (2012) [A1]
2012 edited, Petterson C, Den store fortælling. Festskrift til Geert Hallbäck, (The Grand Narrative. Festschrift for Geert Hallbäck), Anis Press, Copenhagen, 462 (2012) [A3]
Show 1 more book

Chapter (16 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 Petterson C, 'Männlichkeit Im Radikal-Pietismus Des 18. Jahrhunderts', Männlichkeit und Reproduktion: Zum Gesellschaftlichen Ort Historischer und Aktueller Männlichkeitsproduktionen, Springer, Wiesbaden, Germany 251-268 (2015) [B1]
DOI 10.1007/978-3-658-03984-4_14
2015 Petterson C, 'Imagining the Body of Christ', Sexuality, Ideology and the Bible: Antipodean Engagements., Sheffield Phoenix Press, Sheffield, UK 35-55 (2015) [B1]
2015 Petterson C, 'Solidarity! Conditions Apply', Reading the Bible in an Age of Crisis: Political Exegesis for a New Day, Fortress Press, Minneapolis 86-106 (2015) [B1]
2014 Petterson C, 'Linguistic Turn Approaches', Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Gender Studies, Oxford University Press, Oxford 436-444 (2014) [D1]
2013 Petterson C, '"Nothing like it was ever made in any Kingdom": The Hunt for Solomon¿s Throne', Postcolonialism and the Hebrew Bible: The Next Step, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA, USA 93-108 (2013) [B1]
2013 Petterson C, 'Translation Techniques: Modern Versions', Oxford Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation, Oxford University Press, Oxford (2013)
2012 Petterson C, 'Colonialism, Anthropology and Exceptionalism', Whiteness and Postcolonialism in the Nordic Region: Exceptionalism, Migrant Others and National Identities, Ashgate, London 29-42 (2012) [B1]
2012 Petterson C, 'Configuring the Language to Convert the People: Translating the Bible in Greenland', Ideology, Culture and Translation, Society of Biblical Literature, Atlanta, GA, USA 139-150 (2012) [B1]
2012 Petterson C, 'En konge i sin faders sted. Bibel og konge i den danske enevælde', Bibelske Genskrivninger, Museum Tusculanum, Copenhagen 413-434 (2012) [B1]
2012 Petterson C, 'Rum, sted og anti-sted', Den store fortælling. Festskrift til Geert Hallbäck, Anis, Frederiksberg, Denmark 413-434 (2012) [B1]
2009 Petterson C, 'Den kirkelige Johannes', Hvad er sandhed: Nye læsninger af Johannesevangeliet, Anis, Copenhagen 125-142 (2009) [B1]
2009 Petterson C, 'Forargelsen og Johannesevangeliet', Hvad er sandhed: Nye læsninger af Johannesevangeliet, Anis, Copenhagen 167-186 (2009) [B1]
2008 Petterson C, 'Mission of Christ and Local Communities in Acts', Identity Formation in the New Testament, Mohr Siebeck, Tuebingen 247-267 (2008) [B1]
2005 Petterson C, 'Slutning på slutning. Johannes 21 og disciplen på anden hånd', Forum for Bibelsk Eksegese 14: Historie og konstruktion, Festskrift til Niels Peter Lemche i anledning af 60 års fødselsdagen d. 6. september 2005, Museum Tusculanums Forlag, Copenhagen 346-361 (2005)
2004 Petterson C, 'Jesus mellem paraklet og tempel', Forum for Bibelsk Eksegese 13: Frelsens biografisering, Museum Tusculanums Forlag, Copenhagen 272-286 (2004)
2002 Petterson C, 'Den samaritanske kvinde i endnu et nyt lys', Køn og Bibel. Skrifterne, kvinderne og kristendommene, Anis, Copenhagen 85-96 (2002)
Show 13 more chapters

Journal article (11 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2016 Petterson C, '¿A Plague of the state and the church¿: A local response to the Moravian enterprise', Journal of Moravian History, 16 45-60 (2016)

© 2016 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.In 1755 the Lutheran Pastor Johann Gottlob Seidel published his polemical text Haupt-Schlüssel zum Herrnhutischen E... [more]

© 2016 The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.In 1755 the Lutheran Pastor Johann Gottlob Seidel published his polemical text Haupt-Schlüssel zum Herrnhutischen Ehe-Sacrament. The publication consisted of a number of Count Zinzendorf¿s sermons to the married choirs in Herrnhut, Herrnhaag and Marienborn, with an introduction and running commentary by Seidel. The introduction is the point of departure of this article because Seidel¿s vehement criticism of Zinzendorf¿s business practices provides an insight into the effects of the emerging global economy on local industry. By shifting Seidel¿s emphasis from marriage to the choir structure of the community, this article will demonstrate how the Moravians took part in these processes.

DOI 10.1353/moh.2016.0001
2014 Petterson C, '¿Gar nicht biblisch!¿ [Not biblical at all!]: Ephesians, Marriage, and Radical Pietism in Eighteenth-Century Germany', Journal for the Bible and its Reception, 1 191-207 (2014) [C1]
DOI 10.1515/jbr-2014-0018
2013 Petterson C, ''Gospodaria familiala ca locus privilegiat pentru schimbul social' (The Household as Privileged Locus of Social Change)', memoria ethnologica, 48-49 120-137 (2013) [C1]
2012 Petterson C, 'Colonialism and orthodoxy in Greenland', Postcolonial Studies, 15 69-86 (2012) [C1]
2012 Petterson C, 'Colonial Subjectification: Foucault, Christianity and Governmentality', Cultural Studies Review, 18 89-108 (2012) [C1]
2009 Petterson C, 'Den lutherske fallogocentrisme - Hvor er postkolonialismen henne i dansk teologi - og hvorfor mon (The Lutheran phallogocentrism ¿ where is postcolonialism in Danish theology?)', Tijdschrift voor Skandinavistiek, 30 83-109 (2009) [C1]
2008 Petterson C, 'Moses and Abraham go Arctic', Biblical Interpretation: a journal of contemporary approaches, 16 363-374 (2008) [C1]
2007 Petterson C, '¿The Land is mine. Place and Dislocation in the Letter to the Hebrews¿', Sino-Christian Studies: An International Journal of Bible, Theology and Philosophy, 4 69-92 (2007) [C1]
2007 Petterson C, '¿¿Kap Farvel til Umanarssuaq¿: Bibel- og menneskesyn i Paul Egedes fortale til oversættelsen af det Ny Testamente til grønlandsk¿ (¿Cape Farewell to Umanarssuaq¿: The understanding of humanity and Bible in Paul Egede¿s preface to the Greenlandic translation of the New Testament)', Dansk Teologisk Tidsskrift, 2007 103-115 (2007)
2006 Petterson C, '¿The Spirit of Greenland and the Friend of the Emperor¿', The Bible and Critical Theory, 2 16/1-16/13 (2006)
2002 Petterson C, '¿Johannesevangeliets identitetskonstruktion¿', Dansk Teologisk Tidsskrift, 2002 184-195 (2002)
Show 8 more journal articles
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 4
Total funding $33,135

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20153 grants / $18,135

Religion, Marxism and Secularism$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Professor Roland Boer, Doctor Euridice Charon-Cardona, Associate Professor Tom Griffiths, Doctor James Juniper, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Conjoint Professor Marion Maddox, Doctor Sara Motta, Doctor Christina Petterson, Doctor Timothy Stanley
Scheme Strategic Networks Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1500896
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

2014 Vice Chancellors Award for Research Excellence - Faculty of Education and Arts$2,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Christina Petterson
Scheme Award for Research Excellence
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1401472
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

14th International Congress for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Rotterdam The Netherlands, 27-31 July 2015$1,135

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Christina Petterson
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2015
GNo G1500968
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20141 grants / $15,000

Religion and Radicalism Research Network$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Timothy Stanley, Professor Roland Boer, Professor Hilary Carey, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Conjoint Professor Marion Maddox, Doctor Kathleen McPhillips, Doctor Christina Petterson
Scheme Strategic Networks Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400933
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed0
Current1

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD0.1

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2011 PhD The life and work of Reverend James Robert Beattie Love (1889 - 1947) - transforming, and being transformed by cross-cultural and cross-language relationships
PhD (History), Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
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News

VC's Awards 2014

Vice-Chancellor's Awards Winners

December 9, 2014

Each year the University of Newcastle celebrates the remarkable achievements of our staff at the Vice-Chancellor's Awards ceremony.

Dr Christina Petterson

Position

Research Associate
Religion and Radicalism
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Email christina.petterson@newcastle.edu.au
Phone (02) 4921 8703

Office

Room MCG33A
Building McMullin
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308
Australia
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