I study the history, literature, and cultures of the ancient Near East (the area now known as the Middle East) with a specialization in ancient Israel and Judah, the two societies that produced the texts known to most as the Old Testament. My primary approach as a historian is to use the study of migration to reconstruct ancient history and to interpret ancient texts. I am especially interested in how forced migration—people fleeing environmental disasters, war, or persecution in various forms—influences the ways groups construct their history, tell those stories, and respond to the other cultures they meet because of their movements.
Beyond my work as a historian, I pursue projects that explore the role of the Bible and other sacred texts in the contemporary world. One set of projects involves working with artists and living forced migrants to create new visual depictions of these ancient stories that simultaneously highlight the present challenges facing asylum seekers and refugees. Another set of work considers ways that the Bible as a whole and the Old Testament in particular remains a resource for theology, philosophy, and ethics.
2015 Manfred Lautenschläger Award for Theological Promise