Cultural Hegemony and the Power of Sacred Texts


According to Antonio Gramsci, cultural hegemony is “the ‘spontaneous’ consent given by the great masses of the population to the […] dominant fundamental group” (Prison Notebooks), and primarily results from people’s exposure to the ruling elites’ narratives and metanarratives. Cultural hegemony, however, is never achieved once and for all, insofar as the creation of counter-hegemony discourses, aimed at subverting the hegemonic ideology and creating alternative worldviews, remains a viable option. From this perspective, literature is “an agent as well as an effect of such struggles,” as Eagleton puts it (Criticism and Ideology), in the sense that literature is simultaneously one of the many instruments for building hegemony and counter-hegemony, and a mirror reflecting social and ideological tensions.

Since the Hebrew Bible embeds different and even contrasting lines of thought, we intend to investigate to what extent the tensions between biblical texts reflect the conflict between different ideologies struggling for social, religious, and political power in Second Temple Judaism, namely struggling to either create/maintain or subvert cultural hegemony. Within this framework, we inquire into the production, redaction, transmission, and reception of biblical texts in Second Temple Judaism as literary activities infused with ideology and, through textual analysis, we aim to shed new light on the ideologies at stake.


Cultural Hegemony, Second Temple Judaism, Literature and Its Social Impact, Redaction Criticism, Reception Criticism


Benedetta Rossi
Pontifical Biblical Institute

Danilo Verde
KU Leuven

Member Area

Wuppertal 2021 Call for Papers

This year the Research Unit ‘Cultural Hegemony and the Power of Sacred Texts’ intends to inquire into the relationship between narratives, history, and the construction/deconstruction of cultural hegemony in the HB/OT. We accept abstracts addressing the following questions:

- What is the role of biblical stories in constructing the past and controlling imagination for building the future? 

- To what extent the creation of a “historical past” through narrative contributed to building cultural hegemony in Ancient Israel/emerging Judaism?

- Through which strategies (redactional, pragmatic, rhetorical etc.) did biblical narratives try to convince its audience/recipients to assume a certain interpretation of their past?

- Do competing and conflicting narratives mirror hegemony and counter-hegemony in the HB/OT?

- As Thompson (2013, 159) highlights, “Bible’s progress through time is reiterative: neither linear nor historical”. How does a reiterative representation of history contribute to building or reinforcing cultural hegemony?

- What is the import of divine involvement in history for creating cultural hegemony?

- Are the recipients’ positive responses to this narrative enterprise embedded in the narratives themselves? 

- Do biblical narratives contain traces of counter-hegemonic voices?