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The Bible and FeminismRemapping the Field$
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Yvonne Sherwood

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198722618

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198722618.001.0001

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Sexual Politics and Surveillance

Sexual Politics and Surveillance

A Feminist, Metonymic, Spinozan Reading of Psalm 139

Chapter:
(p.296) Chapter 16 Sexual Politics and Surveillance
Source:
The Bible and Feminism
Author(s):

Erin Runions

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198722618.003.0017

Psalm 139 has been used by pro-lifers and gay rights activists to argue for foetal rights and LGBT rights, respectively. The poet speaks of God’s surveillance from the womb, but why is God’s surveillance so valued by interpreters, rather than dreaded (as in the book of Job)? This essay explores why this Psalm is so politically potent, using a metonymic feminist reading strategy to interrogate the ways in which scripture is used to confer rights. Spinoza’s comment on Psalm 139 leads to a consideration of scripture in relation to bodies and affect. The Psalm’s surveillance produces bodily experiences of threat and bodily fragmentation, while also ameliorating that threat by providing a sense of security through time. The results are the positive emotions of allegiance to God and appreciation of surveillance. Identifying readers gain a feeling of agency, a model for rights-bearing political subjectivity as interior, fixed, and known by God.

Keywords:   Psalm 139, surveillance, threat, abortion, LGBT, rights, Spinoza, affect, metonymic reading

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