The unease of a review

While cleaning up my inbox, I noticed that the most recent issue of Feminist Theology carries a review of Reading the Magnificat in Australia: Unsettling Engagements. Very grateful to have a review from Lisa Isherwood that recognises the unsettled and unsettling nature of the work. A bit uneasy about one comment that seems counter to what I was trying to say, about the relative age of the cultural traditions behind the biblical Magnificat and First Nations cultures, so perhaps my writing was unclear. I make the point that First Nations’ songs predate the Magnificat which arrives with the colonisers. And this is a key point. If I were to consider the traditions behind the Magnificat as of a comparable age, it may be through seeing human songs as indebted to older more-than-human songs (which I discuss in chapter 5), though perhaps there are ancient Middle Eastern and European women’s traditions that I don’t discuss that could be adduced. Isherwood notes aptly the problematics of a white settler writer saying anything about the reception of a colonial text in the ongoing colonial space in which I am situated as an inheritor of white privilege, and says: ‘I imagine Elvey wants the reader to be aware of the difficulties and to constantly question her own understandings.’ This is true. At the end of her review, I note with appreciation, she describes the book as ‘a magnificent journey’, and says, ‘Elvey wants us to listen again to an ancient text and by doing so, to open ourselves to a situated but unsettled praxis.’ Yes.

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