Arts and Humanities Research Council studentship 2022

The School of Divinity welcomes Naomi Reiss back to Edinburgh to start her doctoral studies.

Colour head and shoulders photo of Naomi Reiss

Naomi has been awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant through the Scottish Gradudate School of Arts and Humanities. Naomi took an MTh in Biblical Studies at New College, 2020-21, after her first degree in German at Cambridge University.

Naomi’s PhD project begins with a single phrase, ‘prisoner of Christ’. Prison was a seminal experience for many early Christians. The apostle Paul, perhaps the most famous of these incarcerated heroes, described himself as a 'prisoner of Christ'. However, the significance of this self-description has often been overlooked. What did this phrase mean, and how did Paul - and his fellow-believers - understand their experiences of imprisonment in the contexts of their faith? Naomi plans to investigate these questions in terms of the historical context of Graeco-Roman punitive custody, Paul’s theological and cultural context, the development of carceral concepts in early Christian literature. From this starting point, she will analyse their ethical implications for the place of carcerality within modern (Christian) thought.

Naomi will be supervised by Drs Matthew Novenson and Philippa Townsend. Novenson is an expert on Paul, his writings and pauline traditions. He has recently published Paul Then and Now (2022). Townsend is an authority on religions of the ancient Mediterranean and their influence of modern societal debates. Her monograph Ethnicity and Sacrifice in the Early Christian World will be available at the end of the year. Their supervision will support Naomi’s textual and historical work and its intersections with modern debates about incarceration. The School’s partnership with the University of Copenhagen will allow Naomi to connect with a Danish project on Roman prisons.

Naomi’s interest in carceral studies is matched by that of Dr Walaa Quisay who, as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow will be studying ‘Carceral Theology and Prison Literature in Egypt’. The School looks forward to learning more about this fascinating area of study from two able scholars.


Arts and Humanities Research Council

Scottish Gradudate School of Arts and Humanities