Thursday, 7 February 2019

Luis Salés: Systems Intelligence, Historiography, and Early Christian Women’s Virtues: A New Method for Examining Identity-Constituting Microbehaviors in Gendered Macrostructures

A range of critical-theoretical analytical tools (e.g., psychoanalytical, feminist, postcolonial) have been fruitfully deployed to illumine the nature of gendered relations in premodern Christian sources. These methods have succeeded in exposing multiple layers of social structures of power that are instituted through normative discourse. Separately, sociologists (e.g., Pierce, Sue, Nadal) have successfully identified nearly imperceptible actions performed contextually by individuals that constitute their identity and determine their future horizon of behavioral possibilities; however, they have remained exclusively interested in “microaggressions,” though I suggest these are part of a more general category of behaviors: microbehaviors. The recent interdisciplinary work of two Finnish scholars (Saarinen, Hämäläinen) on “Systems Intelligence” (SI) furnishes us with a useful concept and methodological apparatus to examine such microbehaviors and their interconnection with communal macrostructures, which are often the object of critical-theoretical analysis. This communication proposes that underexplored dynamics of early Christian gendered relations can be exposed by bridging the first two modes of inquiry through the conceptual and methodological resources of SI. The result is a new historiographical approach to early Christian social relations. This communication argues that a more complex description of early Christian gendered relations can be obtained by applying this new approach to sources that promote microbehavioral normativity for women’s contextual behavior. Thus, we will examine a handful of such instances preserved in Greek, Syriac, and Latin martyrologies and hagiographies in order to texture our knowledge of identity-constituting social forces imposed on women and, conversely, how their microbehavioral resistance could have systemic consequences.

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