Woman Without a Name: Gender Identity in Sacrificial Stories

Research Programs

Sacrifice may be a topic of intense philosophical-theological academic debate, but it is also the everyday experience of millions of ordinary people.

Either as the one who is sacrificing or as the one who is being sacrificed, we all encounter sacrifice "in our own skin." The golden thread of this project, which brings together diverse philosophical-theological disciplines such as phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, and gender studies, is the very human experience of sacrifice. Thus, this study is oriented towards the individual.

Theorists of sacrifice outside gender studies either deny or disregard the fact that sacrifice is always gendered. The experience of sacrifice would nonetheless suggest that it is: women receive lower wages than men for the same work, and women are expected to combine their career with care for the family, to name but two out-workings of the gendered nature of sacrifice. This project aims to contribute to the discussion on thinking human relations – especially their gendered aspects – outside the sacrificial discourse, and without heaping condemnation on the sources of our Judeo-Christian tradition.

This project investigates the prominent society-wide issue of sacrifice and focuses on the relationship between sacrifice and gender. The thematic grounds for the investigation are biblical texts and the intellectual sources on sacrifice. The investigation is conducted mainly within the Christian discourse but is supplemented by an exploration of Greek mythology. The project aims to provide a link between biblical analysis, which answers particular questions about the nature and context of female sacrifice, and a philosophical-theological synthesis of the nature of such sacrifice in more general terms. 

Feminist philosophical-theological scholarship tries to answer questions of sacrifice of women and naturally refers to biblical sacrificial stories. However, it does so unsystematically and without taking biblical scholarship on this matter into account. Feminist biblical scholarship, in contrast, provides an in-depth analysis of one particular sacrificial story (Jephthah and his daughter, Judges 11:29-40) but does not systematize the notion of female sacrifice in the Judeo-Christian tradition. By putting these two bodies of scholarship together it strengthens both the textual roots of Judeo-Christian sacrifice as well as its systematic outcomes. The project sets out the following questions: how to overcome gender stereotypes that lead to the sacrifice of women by offering a non-sacrificial basis for relationships, while nonetheless remaining embedded in a Judeo-Christian tradition that appears to be inherently patriarchal?

Austrian Science Fund (FWF) M2947-G Woman without a Name: Gender Identity in Sacrificial Stories


Katerina Koci

Research Director, Lisa Meitner Fellow

Visit the Project Website