Settler Reading Postures: Reading Ruth in Settler-Colonial Australia

Author: Rebecca Lindsay

  • Thesis download: available for open access on 5 Jun 2026.

Lindsay, Rebecca, 2023 Settler Reading Postures: Reading Ruth in Settler-Colonial Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis is my grappling with the ongoing realities of colonisation in these lands now called Australia, particularly for Settler readers of the Bible. The entanglement of the Bible within the colonial project led me to consider whether and how biblical interpretation might work towards decolonisation. To this end, this thesis presents a series of contrapuntal readings that engage the biblical book of Ruth alongside texts with Indigenous authoring and themes from settler colonial Australia. I interweave reflections from my experiences. I read Ruth 1 alongside the Revised Preamble of the Uniting Church in Australia in conversation grounded in the theme of home, Ruth 2 alongside Natalie Harkin’s poem ‘Sovereignty’ in conversation grounded in the theme of land, Ruth 3 alongside a lecture by Larissa Behrendt grounded in the theme of memory, and Ruth 4 alongside ‘The Uluṟu Statement from the Heart’ grounded in the theme of identity.

The thesis intentionally engages across multiple disciplines. The chapters, arranged around the themes of ‘home,’ ‘land,’ ‘memory,’ and ‘identity,’ highlighting the value of bringing diverse texts together. The readings draw on insights from postcolonial, decolonial, feminist, and reflexive methods as well as engaging with the fields of biblical studies, Indigenous methodologies, settler colonial studies, and Australian history. This reading process opens out new interpretive possibilities for biblical texts and simultaneously reflects on the Australian context through the accompaniment of the Ruth narrative.

In attending to these texts, the unfolding conversations disrupted the original intention of this thesis, which was to produce a Settler biblical hermeneutics. This change came through observing the tenacious reproductive capacity of settler colonialism, including within Western hermeneutics, and the complicity of Settlers in maintaining settler colonial structures. I offer, instead, four reading postures for Settler bodies which may assist towards emplaced and embodied reading of both the Australian context and the biblical texts. These postures are: feet on the ground, being in relationship, ceding control, and attending to justice. Feet on the ground highlights the importance of specific location for interpretation. Being in relationship notes the condition of the settler colonial context, asking Settler readers to be aware of how they are positioned and how this impacts relationship and interpretation in encounter. Ceding control acknowledges that there are limitations to Settler knowing. Finally, attending to justice asks Settlers to be aware of how their interpretations perpetuate or disrupt settler colonial structures. These postures begin from the already entangled relationship between the Bible and settler colonialism in Australia, seeking to be part of ongoing movements and conversations towards transformed relationship and structures in this place.

Keywords: Bible in Australia, book of Ruth, contextual hermeneutics, contrapuntal, decolonial, postcolonial, reading postures, reflexive reading, settler colonial Australia

Subject: Australian Studies thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2023
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Dr Elizabeth Boase