Anthropology and the Bible


The aim of this unit is to foster ethnographic readings of biblical stories, both Old and New Testaments, and anthropological perspectives on the archaeology, the history and the literature of ancient Palestine in its Near Eastern context. Relevant topics for discussion are:

  •        Political and historical anthropology of ancient Palestine (city-states, urbanization, state-formation processes, ethnogenesis).
  •        Mediterranean anthropology in biblical narrative (patronage, hospitality, feud, honour and shame, food).
  •        Sociology and anthropology of religion and ancient Palestinian cultic and ritual data (aniconism, iconography, burial, cultic places, etc.).
  •        Sociology and anthropology of biblical studies (the production of academic knowledge and its impact on society).
  •        Comparative analysis of Biblical and Eastern Mediterranean literature from an anthropological perspective.


Social and Cultural Anthropology, Ethnographic method, Old Testament, New Testament, East Mediterranean


Anne Katrine Gudme

University of Oslo

Emanuel Pfoh

National University of La Plata & National Research Council (Argentina)

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers

In 2021, we are inviting paper proposals for two open sessions: 1) one session for which we invite papers on anthropological perspectives in biblical literature and in the Levantine world in general (cf. the description of the research unit above), and 2) one joint session organized together with The Deconstructive Poetics research unit on the use of the concepts sacrifice and purity in Biblical literature. Sacrifice and purity are complementary systems: sacrifice crosses the boundaries between animal, human and deity, while purity preserve the divine sphere from contamination by death and generation, the defining characteristics of the human and animal worlds. For this year’s joint session, we invite presentations that investigate the symbolic functions of sacrifice and purity in biblical literature. We especially welcome proposals that theorize sacrifice and purity, using a combination of approaches, such as anthropology, philosophy, poetics and metaphor theory.

We are also organizing two short paper sessions in 2021, one on the anthropology of sexuality in the Hebrew Bible and one on anthropology, the Bible and method. Both of these short sessions have been transferred from the now cancelled 2020-programme to the 2021-programme, and there is no open CFP for these two sessions. If, however, you do have a paper proposal that is pertinent to one of these themes, do get in touch with one of the chairs well in advance of the deadline for submitting paper proposals for the 2021 conference on 31st January 2021.