Upcoming Events

Virgin Territory: Configuring Female Virginity in Early Christianity

March 4, 2023 @ 10:00 am – 11:30 am
Zoom Webinar
Ian Rees

Join the Union community on Saturday, March 4 at 10:00 am ET for a webinar celebrating the publication of Virgin Territory: Configuring Female Virginity in Early Christianity by Julie Kelto Lillis, Assistant Professor of Early Church History. Panelists Maia Kotrosits, Saadia Yacoob, Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones, and moderator Shola Adegbite will join Dr. Kelto Lillis in discussing the book and the ways historical work informs the work of justice. Register to receive Zoom webinar login information.

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Drawing from their own analysis of gender and sexuality in ancient or medieval texts, the guest speakers will connect academic and social justice-oriented contributions of Virgin Territory with their projects in diverse areas of religious and theological studies. The discussion will highlight the necessity of historicizing concepts that circulate in current societies and the value of investigating the past to reconsider the present and reimagine the future.

About the Book 

Women’s virginity held tremendous significance in early Christianity and the Mediterranean world. Early Christian thinkers developed diverse definitions of virginity and understood its bodily aspects in surprising, often nonanatomical ways. Eventually Christians took part in a cross-cultural shift toward viewing virginity as something that could be perceived in women’s sex organs. Treating virginity as anatomical brought both benefits and costs. By charting this change and situating it in the larger landscape of ancient thought, Virgin Territory illuminates unrecognized differences among early Christian sources and historicizes problematic ideas about women’s bodies that still persist today. Purchase Virgin Territory: Configuring Female Virginity in Early Christianity today.

About the Speakers

Julia Kelto Lillis

Julia Kelto Lillis is the Assistant Professor of Early Church History at Union Theological Seminary. Her primary research interests concern ancient constructions of social difference, especially in areas we today call gender and sexuality, and the ways they are discussed in early Christian texts. Her teaching areas span multiple periods of Christians’ history and literature, ancient genders and sexualities, early Christian theologians and saints, and diverse ancient perspectives on the body, healing, and disabilities. Read more.

Shola Adegbite

I would identify as an Yoruba-African socio-historical and ideology critic with an interest in gender, embodied, and earth-centered approaches with a goal of liberation, justice, healing, and diversity.

Maia Kotrosits

Maia Kotrosits received her PhD in New Testament from Union in 2013. Since then she has taught at Amherst College and Denison University. She is currently serving as a Research Associate at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Hellenistic Studies under a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She has co-authored two books, and is the sole author of four others. Her most recent books are The Lives of Objects: Material Culture, Experience, and the Real in the History of Early Christianity (University of Chicago Press, 2020) and Theory, History, and the Study of Religion in Late Antiquity (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones

Amey Victoria Adkins-Jones is Assistant Professor of Theology and African and African Diaspora Studies at Boston College. Her scholarship specializes in Mariology and black feminist and womanist thought. Her first monograph (Immaculate Misconceptions, in progress) offers a theological account of the rise of the global sex trade. Centering the icon of the black madonna, the book holds accountable theological notions of purity and rape at the site of black flesh. Her second project (See No Evil, in progress) names how technology has changed the way we visualize violence and black death, and offers a theology of black protest.

Saadia Yacoob

Saadia Yacoob is Assistant Professor of Religion at Williams College. She holds a PhD in Islamic studies from Duke University and an MA from the Institute of Islamic Studies at McGill University. She has also studied Islamic law in Egypt and Jordan. Her research focuses on gender, childhood, and enslavement in Islamic law. Her forthcoming book manuscript titled Reading Gender in Early Islamic Law investigates the intersections of gender, age, and enslavement in the construction of legal personhood in Hanafi law. More broadly, her research interests include Islamic legal history, Muslim feminist studies, history of sexuality, and slavery studies. Her research has been published in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Law and several academic blogs such as The Immanent Frame and Contending Modernities. She is also curator-host of the “History Speaks” stream at the Maydan Podcast.