Daughters as water-fetchers: ‘Streamlining’ water-gender dialectics in biblical narrative
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Biblical interpreters have often been unwittingly anthropocentric in their reading of biblical narratives, ignoring the living and nonliving presence of physical world characteristics that underpin the narrative’s overall framework. Moreover, with a focus on men, women’s role as water fetchers has been overlooked, resulting in the text’s dual undermining of ecological and gender issues. This thesis attempts to move away from such interpretations and reread selected biblical texts about water and women using a dual-mode of inquiry, namely gender-ecocriticism. A central question within ecocritical inquiry is—how is nature represented in the narrative? Furthermore, on the subject of gender criticism— how are daughters narrativized in the text? These are the two critical questions that this thesis intends to explore. There are only five explicit narratives of ‘daughters fetching water at the well’ in the Bible. Nevertheless, these scenic activities are significant because of their historical link to the waterfetching daughters in the contemporary world. This study draws attention to the gendering of the water-fetching task by a gender analysis of the five texts. To understand why only daughters are assigned the task of water-fetching, the study draws on theories of the sexual division of labour. The first theme I discuss in this dissertation is water symbolism as found in Judeo-Christian and contemporary stories of water and its interplay with current issues of water scarcity. The focus of the second part is the water-gender intersections found in those five narratives. These themes are explored in this thesis through an exegetical analysis of the five biblical water-drawing narratives. The interpretation is based on socio-historical analysis as well as literary analysis employing narratology and biblical hermeneutical methods. This dissertation concludes that water stories demonstrate that water is more than a symbol. The current water shortage crisis in some parts of the world directs our attention to the urgency of reconfiguring water in our religious and theological imaginations. Water becomes an intrinsic feature in the reader’s mind when read from a gender-ecocritical angle. Being appreciative of each physical element in the vast expanse of the ecosystem, allows a reader’s imagination to reflect on the global negative impact and the distortion of those valuable connections we as humans have with the rest of the physical world.