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Student of the Month: Haley Gabrielle

Haley Gabrielle (she/her/hers)

Born in Canada and raised in the United States, Haley Gabrielle is a biracial South Asian woman in diaspora. She completed her BA in Classics at Kenyon College, and her Master of Arts in Religion concentrated in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Yale Divinity School. She is now working on her dissertation during her New Testament PhD program at Emory University. Haley lives in Charleston, SC with her husband and her son.

What is your field of study and research?

I study the New Testament through the interconnected lenses of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and colonialism. My strongest influence comes from women of color feminisms. When I interpret the Bible, my priority is to speak to the life experiences of women and people of color. Sadly the Bible has been used to cause harm so often, even as it has also been a source of light and empowerment. My goal is to center and uplift minoritized perspectives to draw out more liberating readings of the text. Currently, I am working on my dissertation, which offers a South Asian feminist reading of Acts 16:1-5, the narrative of the circumcision of Timothy. I critique the Orientalist views of circumcision present in past interpretation of this passage, and I highlight the agency of Timothy in his own circumcision.

How does your biracial heritages influence the ways you look at the Bible?

I am drawn to characters who are in between categories and who belong to multiple categories. The book of Acts is full of them: Timothy, Paul, the Ethiopian eunuch, the enslaved Pythian diviner. I hope to encourage us as readers to see these figures for all they can be, not just for the boxes that we fit them into. As an Indian biblical scholar, I highlight South Asian history and scholarship because it is often underrepresented in the guild, and I also prioritize working in coalition with all scholars of color. “South Asian” itself is a coalitional term, which urges us to attend to the diversity of countries, languages, religions, dress, cuisines, etc. across the region.

How do you balance work and family as a new mother?

I am so grateful to be able to stay at home with my baby and work on my dissertation at the same time. For me, it’s the best of both worlds! When I do my academic work, I have a powerful incentive to be efficient and make the most of my time. I research and write, often using a Bluetooth mouse, while my baby naps in my arms. If I’m rocking my baby to sleep for a long time, I busy my mind by brainstorming about what I’ll write next. I make those little blocks of time productive, and I enjoy my family the rest of the day.

What brings you hope?

It can be heavy work studying the topics that I do. I make sure to practice self-care by paying attention to the emotions in my body, by processing aloud with my husband what I read, and by engaging with encouraging art produced by women of color. Above all, I remind myself of the final vision of God’s restored creation, where every tear will be wiped away. These structures of oppression are not eternal, and we can work for justice alongside God knowing that the end result will be beautiful.

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