Alison Gruseke Connects Biblical Scholarship & Personal Identity

In November, Dr. Alison Gruseke’s dissertation, “Moses the Mesopotamian: Sargon of Akkad, Moses, and the Production of Geographical Identities in Ancient Israel” was accepted by the Department of Religious Studies at Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her study investigates the Exodus 2 account of Moses’ birth in light of other Ancient Near East texts,  asking fundamental questions about the relationship between geography, identity, and faith. 

Gruseke, a lifelong Episcopalian, recognizes the way her unique experience of geography has been formational to her personal identity.  “My ‘roots’ are both in northern New York State, where my grandparents met in the choir loft of their Episcopal church, and in England and Scotland, where my British mother was raised. In addition I have been influenced powerfully by early childhood memories of Pakistan; of suburban Illinois, where I spent my school years; and of the mountains in western Massachusetts, where I attended Williams College, met my husband and was married in the Episcopal church our college town.” She also points out that her present identity is intrinsically tied to her early geography. “I could not tell you my life story without mentioning those other sites: they are as deeply a part of my identity as the house in which I now write.  How does a life feel at once rooted but also connected to such a range of distant places at the same time?”

Next semester, Gruseke and the Rev. Dr. Michael Battle will co-teach a course at General Seminary. “I feel honored to be teaching a course next semester with Michael Battle,” says Gruseke, “We began discussing the possibility last year, and it combines questions from my dissertation with Professor Battle's life of ministry and research, including the places he has been and served. Team teaching always offers such rich possibilities! I can't help thinking of our two life geographies, including Professor Battle's long years of work with Bishop Tutu in South Africa, and how our paths crossed on a single New York City block --the Close at General Seminary.”

The course is titled ‘Faith, Identity and Conflict: Modern Problems, Ancient Solutions,’ and it deals with issues that are relevant to both scholars. Gruseke describes the course: “At its core is a single key question: How can Christians become aware of their own identities and worldviews, then use that knowledge to enhance their abilities as peace-makers and bringers of justice in a world sorely in need of both? We hope to welcome students in all stages of their General Seminary work but also from the wider community. It feels like the beginning of a long conversation.”