Changing the Family Portrait: Hagar and Sarah in Art and Interfaith Dialogue

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Abstract

The ‘Abrahamic’ has become an almost indispensable touchstone in the theory and practice of interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. The more this terminology has been employed, however, the less clear we have become about what we mean by it. If we are going to call for interfaith dialogue under the banner of the Abrahamic, we should begin by wrestling more fully with the character of Abraham, and his complex family relations. One key task is to address a persistent emphasis on patriarchs over matriarchs, which elevates Abraham while marginalizing his wives Sarah and Hagar. While their tales are narrated and interpreted in divergent ways in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, related challenges arise in each tradition, which bear directly upon the prospects for interfaith dialogue. In this essay I will unpack some of these issues using works of art by such diverse artists as Edmonia Lewis, George Segal, Adi Nes, and Siona Benjamin. I will conclude by speculating on the wider possibilities for using the visual arts as a tool for dialogue between the Abrahamic faiths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-189
Number of pages11
JournalReligion Compass
Volume7
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2013

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