joJo Henderson-Merrygold 


Jo Henderson-Merrygold
PhD Candidate
Co-Director of Hidden Perspectives
Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies & School of English Literature
University of Sheffield

Personal Website
Twitter: @Jo_H_M

Supervisor: Katie Edwards

Research area: Sarah and the Hermeneutics of Cis-picion: Genderqueering a biblical matriarch.


I returned to Higher Education in 2011, after a career in community development and project management roles. I was awarded a BA First Class and a MA with distinction in Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Leeds, where I was also holder of an Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS). My scholarship research focussed on the role of the Bible in contemporary society; a topic I continue to research through my PhD. My main other area of interest was in the application on queer and gender theory to the way we read texts from the Hebrew Bible. My BA dissertation explored the ways in which feminist biblical scholarship reinforces, rather than confronts, the problematic portrayal of Lot’s Wife (Genesis 19); a project that was awarded the Leslie Barnard Prize for the best TRS dissertation of the year. My MA dissertation, ‘Reading Jacob Genderqueerly: ‘patriarchal’ sex and gender performativity beyond the binary’ asked whether it is possible to read Jacob’s gender differently, and forms an invaluable foundation for my PhD research.

During my time at Leeds, I was the Project Assistant for the Community Religions Project and the Website Intern for British Experiences of the Hajj Project. I was actively involved in undergraduate employment events, ran a book group, was secretary to the knitting and crochet society, and was a discussion group leader for a level 1 module. In addition to my UGRLS, I was awarded a LeedsforLife Foundation grant to attend the Society of Old Testament Studies meeting and won several prizes including the RSA Edward Boyle Prize for outstanding achievement in undergraduate research. I am a prolific knitter, and can generally be found with a ball or yarn or two and plenty of works in progress.


My PhD is AHRC funded through WRoCAH, and I am located in the School of English and Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (SIIBS). My project uses and adapts queer theory and gender studies in order to propose a new genderqueer hermeneutic for reading biblical narratives. Taking queer biblical studies away from a focus solely on sex and sexuality, my 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 I hope to present a radical alternative which can offer potential liberation for those who don’t identify in line with expectations of gender and sex.

I am also interested in the way biblical motifs are reproduced in contemporary society, particularly in low or pop culture, especially through television drama. To explore these topics further, I am organising a one-day research symposium as part of Hidden Perspectives in February 2016 entitled ‘Orange is the New Bible’, and a widening participation event for school pupils on the Bible and Television later in 2016. I am looking forward to continuing involvement in Hidden Perspectives throughout my PhD.

National and International Conferences

Orange is the New Bible Symposium. A one-day symposium for undergraduates, postgraduates and early career researchers about the Bible and Orange is the New Black. Conference organiser. February 19 2016 (Forthcoming).
Reading Jacob Genderqueerly: 'patriarchal' sex and gender performativity beyond the binary. Society of Old Testament Studies. Graduate Panel. University of Durham. January 2016 (forthcoming)
Going on a Bible Hunt: A public object of religion and culture in Leeds. British Conference of Undergraduate Research. University of Winchester. April 2015.
plus additional preparatory presentation to invited guests at the University of Leeds (April 2015)


• Tutor for REL101: Understanding the Old Testament
• Visiting Lecturer for ‘Introduction to Queer Theory,’ IPA1010 LGBT* Studies
While at the University of Leeds:
• Student Discussion Group Leader: THEO1140 Religion in Modern Britain


• 2016 (forthcoming) Jacob – not the boy we thought: a genderqueer approach.
• 2016 (forthcoming) Lot’s Wife in World Literature. In: Swindell, A. (ed). Encyclopedia on the Bible and Its Reception. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Awards and Prizes

AHRC funding: University of Sheffield WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship; April 2015
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.
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.