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Parallel 5

Decolonizing the Sea and the Peoples of the Sea in the Hebrew Bible


Dr. Arvin GOUW

PhD of Theology and Science

The University of Cambridge Faculty of Divinity

Coloniality is embedded in the Hebrew Bible narratives, including the narratives of the formation of Israel as a united monarchy and ethnic identity. There are several narratives that are blended into the metanarrative of the united monarchy of David which has been challenged by contemporary archaeological findings. As part of the creation of the identity of Israel, peoples of the sea, the Philistines and the Phoenicians, have been demonized. Unfortunately, this conflict myth is transferred from the peoples of the sea to the sea itself, leading to a demonization of the sea. This negative perspective of the sea is found in over half of references of the sea in the Hebrew Bible. As a person from Indonesia, the largest archipelago country in the world with over 16.000 islands, I sought to decolonize the sea and peoples of the sea, by introducing a postcolonial hermeneutics of the sea. The focus of this hermeneutical task is to highlight the various overlapping colonizing struggles between various city states, imperial powers of the ancient near east, and migrating peoples, which lead to the demonization of the sea. Philistines, Phoenicians, Israelites, and other peoples have been demonized by the label of the “people of the sea” in various contexts. Though the peoples signified by the label “people of the sea” changes over time, the negative stigma that is attached to the sea persists through the Hebrew Bible. By decolonizing, de-demonizing, and liberating the sea, I wish to provide Indonesians and other communities of the sea a better narrative by which we can have a more positive view of ourselves and the sea as we face critical problems of the sea ranging from piracy, pollution, to increasing sea levels due to climate change.



Arvin Gouw PhD is currently working in the field of theology and science at the University of Cambridge Faculty of Divinity. Prior to Cambridge, Arvin served as instructor at Stanford University and did his research fellowships on science and religion at Harvard’s Center for Science Religion and Culture, and Princeton Theological Seminary. Arvin received his doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, master’s degrees in philosophy from University of Pennsylvania, in theology from St. Mary’s Ecumenical Institute of Theology, in endocrinology and neuroscience from UC Berkeley. His upcoming book is CRISPR Revolution in Science, Religion, and Ethics, co-edited with Ted Peters (Bloomsbury: ABC-CLIO 2023). His recent publications include Religious Transhumanism and Its Critics, edited with Brian Green and Ted Peters (Lexington 2022). His research has been published in academic journals including Zygon, Theology and Science.


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