Co-Director of Hidden Perspectives
Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies & School of English Literature
University of Sheffield
Thesis Title: From Suspicion to Cispicion: Developing a Genderqueer Hermeneutics.
Research Themes: Hebrew Bible, Genesis, queer theory, trans theory, Bible in contemporary society, LGBT+ studies
Jo returned to Higher Education in 2011 following a successful career working in community development and project management roles for various charities. She completed a BA(Hons) First Class and a MA with distinction in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds. While at Leeds, she also undertook Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS), supervised by Mel Prideaux, for which she won the RSA/Edward Boyle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Research. Jo’s scholarship research focussed on the role of the Bible in contemporary society; a theme which drew her to SIIBS. Her current research also builds on her interest in the application of queer and gender theory to the way we read texts from the Hebrew Bible, especially in the construction of gender in contemporary society. This work builds on her MA dissertation, ‘Reading Jacob Genderqueerly: ‘patriarchal’ sex and gender performativity beyond the binary;’ a character she is revisiting in light of emerging trans and genderqueer theory.
Since arriving at Sheffield, Jo has been actively involved in SIIBS research, teaching, and public engagement. She co-directs Hidden Perspectives: Bringing the Bible out of the Closet and recently undertook the role of visiting researcher at the University of Auckland to support them in launching their Hidden Perspectives project in the Faculty of Arts. She also co-founded the Orange is the New Bible project, and hosted a research symposium in February 2016, which was shortlisted for the Sheffield Union Best Event Academic Award. Jo, a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, has guest lectured on queer theory, the Bible and television, and religious studies fieldwork, and has been graduate teaching assistant for Understanding the Old Testament, and LGBT+ Studies. She also co-supervises a Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) project, and managed two interns working on Hidden Perspectives in the UK and New Zealand from the English MA programme and serves as a PhD mentor and SIIBS student representative. Jo is committed to public research engagement, taking part in The Image Speaks 2017 exhibition, writing for The Conversation, and hosting widening participation events. Both inside and outside university Jo is a prolific knitter, and can generally be found with a ball or yarn or two and plenty of works in progress.
Hidden Perspectives in the UK and New Zealand from the English MA programme and serves as a PhD mentor and SIIBS student representative. Jo is committed to public research engagement, taking part in The Image Speaks 2017 exhibition, writing for The Conversation, and hosting widening participation events. Both inside and outside university Jo is a prolific knitter, and can generally be found with a ball or yarn or two and plenty of works in progress.
Jo’s PhD is AHRC funded through WRoCAH, and her project uses and adapts queer theory and gender studies in order to propose a new hermeneutic for reading biblical narratives against an assumption that all characters are cisgender. That means the character is understood to have been only and always a single and fixed gender from their birth; it is the antonym of transgender. This is a hugely resonant and important piece of research as conservative discourses and discussions still make use of the Bible in rejecting trans or genderqueer lived experiences. Therefore, taking queer biblical studies away from a focus solely on sex and sexuality, this research asks readers to consider the ways we infer gender on to characters, and then reflect those back into contemporary life. The project has contemporary significance in light of the way discourses of gender and sex continue to rely on biblical imagery for their authority and validation. By confronting these associations, and offering an alternative which can offer potential liberation for those who don’t identify in line with fixed, narrow expectations of gender and sex. This project draws on the work of feminist and queer hermeneuts who highlighted the limitations of earlier reading strategies and invited critical consideration of which norms and structures remain unacknowledged in biblical scholarship.
Papers and Publications
2018 My Queer Research: Hidden Perspectives on Trans and Genderqueer Biblical Characters. Hidden Perspectives on LGBT History Month. University of Sheffield. February (TBC). (forthcoming)
Peer Reviewed Articles
2014 Prideaux, M., with J. Merrygold. What the Community Religions Project can tell us about the Study of Religious Diversity in the UK. DISKUS. 16 (3), pp.34-46.
Currently in preparation are journal articles on Lot’s wife in reception history, Genesis matriarchs in Orange is the New Bible, cisnormativity and the Bible, Genderqueering Jacob, and the Bible as an object of culture and religion in Leeds.
2018 Queering the Christian Discourse of Gender Violence. In Blyth, C., E. Colgan, and K. Edwards (eds.). Gender Violence, Rape Culture, and Religion: Christian Perspectives. London: Palgrave MacMillan. (forthcoming)
2017 Tim Farron, the Bible and Queerness. History Matters: History brought alive by the University of Sheffield. 27 July.
Invited Talks and Panels
2017 My Queer Research – Jo Henderson-Merrygold. Hidden Perspectives. University of Auckland, New Zealand. 17 March.
2017 ‘Meet Jacob…’ The Image Speaks 2017: Collaborative Exhibition. Communication your PhD through photography. Jessop West Building. University of Sheffield. From 24 April.
|Teaching and Supervision||
Graduate Teaching Assistant:
• Understanding the Old Testament (REL101)
• Bible and Popular Culture (REL114): Lucifer: Biblical Imagery and Ideological Criticism
• Second supervisor, with Hugh Pyper
Jo became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (fHEA) in 2016, and was nominated for the Best Postgraduate who Teaches at the 2017 Sheffield Union Academic Awards. She also mentors PhD students and applicants for WRoCAH.
At the University of Leeds Jo was a student discussion group leader for Religion in Modern Britain (THEO1140), taught website development and social media as part of her work on the British Muslim Experiences of the Hajj and Community Religions Projects, and knitting and crochet for the Stitch’n Bitch society. In her previous career she delivered a wide range of training covering careers, community development, project management, team building and relationships, chaplaincy, religion on campus, and equality and diversity.
2017 Visiting Researcher, Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland Project: Hidden Perspectives: Bringing the Arts and Humanities out of the closet
• Hidden Perspectives on LGBT History Month, a series of public engagement activities including film night, reading group and research presentation, February 2018 (forthcoming)
2015-2017 Co-director, Orange is the New Bible Project, University of Sheffield:
2015-2017 Digital Monographs Series Editor, Community Religions Project, University of Leeds
2014-2015 Project assistant, Community Religions Project, University of Leeds.
2013-2015 Website Manager, British Muslim Experiences of the Hajj, University of Leeds
2014 Graduate Intern, Leeds Creative Labs. Leeds Creative and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds.
Project: Creating Digital Impact.
|Awards and Prizes||
Project: Religion, Theology and the Bible - All I Learned (about the Bible), I Learned from Telly. January 2017.
Widening Participation Funding, Faculty of Arts, University of Sheffield. £550.
Finalist: Orange is the New Bible Symposium. Best Event award. Sheffield Union Academic Awards. May 2016
Project: Orange is the New Bible symposium. February 2016.
WRoCAH, Student Led Forum (with L. Skerratt – King’s College London, & C. Hamilton – University of Leeds). £2000.
University of Sheffield, Arts and Humanities PGR Forum. £250
AHRC funding: University of Sheffield WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship; 2015-2018. Additionally, Jo has received awards of £4300 from WRoCAH for her Researcher Employability Project as Visiting Researcher at the University of Auckland, and to cover conference attendance.
Postgraduate Conference Fund. School of Philosophy, Religion and the History of Science. University of Leeds. July 2015.
Conference: Society of Old Testament Studies Summer Meeting, Edinburgh: £150.
Alumni Footsteps Fund and LeedsforLife award, University of Leeds. April 2015.
Conference: British Conference of Undergraduate Research (undisclosed sum: all fees).
AHRC funding: WRoCAH Research Preparation Masters Studentship; University of Leeds. July 2014.
Leslie Barnard Prize in Theology and Religious Studies award for best BA dissertation in Theology and Religious Studies. University of Leeds. July 2014.
Zion Old British School Prize for best overall performance in the final year of the BA Theology and/or Religious Studies. University of Leeds. July 2014.
1st Prize. RSA/Edward Boyle Award for Outstanding Achievement in Undergraduate Research. RSA and University of Leeds. March 2014.
LeedsforLife Foundation Project Award, University of Leeds. November 2013. £400.
Friends (Single Honours) Prize for best marks in Theology and Religious Studies at Level 2. University of Leeds. July 2013.
Special Commendation. Adult Learner Award. University of Leeds. May 2013.
Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (Faculty of Arts), University of Leeds. 2012-2014.
Project: 35 Years of the Community Religions Project: Revisiting the Archives. £6000 + £1000 conference and research funding.
Finalist. Participation Award. University of Leeds Partnership Awards. March 2012.
• Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
Associate Member. Religion, Gender and Sexualities Stream: Centre for Critical Inquiry Into Society and Culture (CCISC), Aston University.
• Society of Biblical Literature
• International Association for the study of Religion and Gender
• European Association of Biblical Studies
• Society of Old Testament Studies
• Open@TUOS LGBT+ and Allies Network, University of Sheffield