Copy of Reimagining Hagar

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"Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar..."


Who is Hagar? How and why did she become Black?

In the book of Genesis, Hagar is an Egyptian, an enslaved woman, a surrogate, a wife, and a mother. As the wife of Abraham and the mother of Ishmael, she becomes a recognized figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Reimagining Hagar offers a bold and entirely fresh reception history of biblical Hagar. It centers on treatments of Hagar as a Black woman, particularly by African Americans.

Engaging a wide array of sources, biblical scholar Nyasha Junior constructs an alluring and richly textured portrait of Hagar and her portrayal in art, literature, and music. By tracing the links between Hagar and Blackness, Reimagining Hagar sheds light on the history of interpretation of Genesis, the interchange between Bible and culture, and African-American biblical interpretation. This original and groundbreaking book will change how you think about Hagar and about biblical interpretation.

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Artist name: Mirlande Jean-Gilles

Artwork title: Everyday Mother as Her Majesty the Queen

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This book offers a reception history of biblical Hagar. Despite the limited description of Hagar in biblical texts, she becomes an important figure in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. While many interpreters often treat biblical characters as White or as non-Black, this book investigates how, when, and why some interpreters choose to identify biblical Hagar as a Black woman. It centers on treatments of Hagar by African-American biblical interpreters and focuses attention on how professional and non-professional interpreters identify and engage issues of difference, including gender, race, ethnicity, and status.

Building on the work of African-American classicists and biblical scholars, Reimagining Hagar discusses the African presence in biblical texts and issues of race within biblical studies. It details the portrayal of Hagar in 19th century pro- and anti-slavery literature in the United States, in African-American vernacular traditions, and in religious studies and biblical studies scholarship.

Engaging an array of literary and artistic sources, Reimagining Hagar illustrates that interpretations of Hagar as Black emphasize elements of Hagar’s narrative in order to connect her with or disassociate her from particular groups. This book traces some of the key points within the emergence and development of this unique understanding of Hagar as a Black woman.