Bringing the Arts out of the closet

22 March 2017
Jo at the Auckland Pride Parade
Jo at the Auckland Pride Parade. Image: Nick Thompson.

Jo Henderson-Merrygold was with us for a month as a visiting scholar from the University of Sheffield. While she was here she worked with Caroline Blyth and Chip Matthews to support the launch of Hidden Perspectives.

Hidden Perspectives is a project to bring the Arts out of the closet at the University of Auckland. It was started last year by Chip Matthews from the Student Development and Engagement Team and Caroline Blyth from Theological and Religious Studies.

Its aim is to foster a safe and welcoming community for LGBTI+ Arts students, where they can socialise with and support each other, and explore queer issues and research in the Arts.

This semester Hidden Perspectives will be running seminars on queer research, movie screenings and weekly lunchtime gatherings.

The project grew out of a sibling Hidden Perspectives project at the University of Sheffield’s Institute of Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies (SIIBS). This was launched in 2013 by my doctoral supervisor, Dr Katie Edwards, who has worked with Caroline for many years, and I am currently one of its co-directors.

Hidden Perspectives at Sheffield works to bring the Bible out of the closet through research seminars and conferences on under-represented perspectives on the Bible, and even the occasional biblical Burlesque show!

So when Caroline got in touch about starting a Hidden Perspectives project in Auckland, I was keen to offer any support I could. Part of my PhD funding allows me to spend one full month working on a project independent of my research, so this was it.

I hope that Hidden Perspectives at Auckland will grow, and that students here will be inspired to lead it and shape its future.

During my time in Auckland I helped to build a website for Hidden Perspectives in Auckland, participated in the launch of the project, and presented its first seminar on my doctoral research and the ways that queer experiences and issues can be integrated into academic research.

For my PhD, I am developing a reading strategy that searches for cisnormativity in texts and their interpretations — that is, the privileging idea that it is normal to not be trans.

Just as feminist scholars showed us that we need to read against androcentrism, and queer scholars encouraged to read against heteronormativity, I’m taking the equivalent step with cisnormativity.

It need not stop with the Bible, but it’s not a bad place to start, given the continued influence and impact that this text has on so many cultures throughout the world.

Hidden Perspectives meets every Tuesday from 12-2pm in Room 408, Arts 1.

Find out more about Hidden Perspectives