Sean Burke to present religion forum lecture Nov. 12

Oct. 23, 2009

Sean Burke, assistant professor of religion at Luther, will present a Luther College Religion Forum lecture titled “Early Christian Drag: The Ethiopian Eunuch as a Queering Figure” Thursday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m. in Valders 206.

Burke holds the doctoral degree in biblical studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and currently teaches at Luther. He is ordained in the Episcopal Diocese of California and serves as a priest-in-residence at St. James Episcopal Church in Independence, Iowa.

Burke is completing research in the fields of Biblical studies and gender and sexuality studies. He also is in the process of seeking a publisher for his dissertation, “Reading the Ethiopian Eunuch as a Eunuch: Queering the Book of Acts.”

Burke’s lecture will be about how an examination of the interpretation of Acts chapter 8, verses 26-40 reveals multiple ambiguities in the identity of the Ethiopian eunuch. Many readers have treated such ambiguities as problems to be resolved, with the goal of establishing a fixed, stable, unitary identity for the eunuch. Burke instead reads them as potential sites for making visible the construction of ancient identity categories.

As figures in ancient texts, eunuchs can be read as subversive drag performers, whose interpretation of gender, sexuality, social status and race had the potential to make visible the performative character of identity.  In his lecture, Burke presents the Ethiopian eunuch’s story in Acts as a drag performance that contributes to the subversive rhetoric of the Book of Acts.