Ezekiel’s subordinate masculinity, an embodiment of trauma, Présentation de Sébastien Doane à la SBL

Dans le cadre de la rencontre annuelle de la Society of Biblical Literature, Sébastien Doane présentera une réflexion sur le prophète Ézéchiel dans le cadre du groupe Biblical Literature and the Hermeneutics of Trauma.

Voici une synthèse de son intervention:

Ezekiel’s subordinate masculinity, an embodiment of trauma

This paper explores the intersection of masculinity studies and trauma hermeneutic by investigating the ways in which Ezekiel’s body is described as an embodiment of trauma in his role as YHWH’s prophet in the context of the Babylonian Exile. In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in masculinity studies to interpret biblical texts (Creanga 2010; Creanga and Smit 2014; Haddox 2016; Stewart 2016). This interpretative approach investigates the relation between power and masculinity with the concept of hegemonic masculinity. In contrast to God’s hegemonic masculinity, most biblical male characters perform a subordinate masculinity. “Men are required to take the feminine, subordinate role with respect to the deity.” Haddox (2014, 517) This is certainly the case with Ezekiel. Graybill (2016) accurately observes that Ezekiel’s passive and suffering body features prominently in the text in contrast to the gloriousness of God’s body. Many scholars have applied trauma theories to interpret the book of Ezekiel (Smit-Christopher 2002; Garber 2014; Stulman 2015; Poser 2016). The description of Ezechiel’s submissive masculinity can be understood in light of these studies. Ezekiel 2-5 presents the prophet’s masculinity as an embodiment of trauma. The description of his calling and of the sign acts he performs show how his body and masculinity are shaped by his encounter with God and by the prophetic performance he must enact. This “son of man” is penetrated by a scroll barring words of lamentation and mourning and woe (2:8-3:4). Ezekiel’s isolation and silence, shut inside a house and bound by cords (3:24-27), constrains him to a private space without the possibility to act and speak in opposition to masculine norms. The prophet also relinquishes the control of his body by taking uncomfortable positions for long periods and eating small portions of repulsive food (4:1-17). Shaving his hair and beard makes his body an unmasculine sign of exilic trauma. His bodily hair, symbol of masculinity, is cut, burned and dispersed (5:1-4). In these signs, God causes pain to Ezekiel’s body as an image of the pain that will be inflicted to his people. In comparison, God clearly exhibits typical hegemonic masculinity such as violence, public discourse, and control over other men. Ezekiel’s submission to divine control is a prophetic embodiment of the traumatic Babylonian exile. “Yahweh forces Ezekiel to undergo the fall of the southern kingdom in his own body” (Tarlin 1997, 182). The devastating, crushing experience of exile is represented by Ezekiel’s broken body and submissive masculinity. Traumatic events generate a wide variety of responses. Ezekiel’s submissive masculinity is not negatively portrayed. He is not characterised as an emasculated victim. His alternative masculinity is presented as an appropriate response to God’s hegemonic masculinity. His peculiar masculinity is a resilient reaction that contrasts with the failed hegemonic masculinity of the Israelites. Unlike Ezekiel, their bodies are qualified as hard (3:7-9) to illustrate their direct opposition to God. What might look like Ezekiel’s weakness is in fact an openness that presents a way of resilience.

San Diego, Society of Biblical literature