Congratulations Fr. Vien!

Fr. Vien with fellow classmates and faculty after the defense

SCJ successfully defends dissertation

Congratulations to Fr. Vien Nguyen, SCJ, who successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in Sacred Theology on November 14th! This is the last step in his doctoral program at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, Calif.

The title of the dissertation is “Extending the Boundaries of Gender and Ethnicity in the Wilderness: a Spatial Reading of the Ethiopian Eunuch Narrative in Acts 8:26-40.”

What does that mean? The following is the abstract that Fr. Vien wrote to describe his work:

Fr. Vien Nguyen

“Given the prominence of the temple and Jerusalem narrative settings in Luke-Acts, the author situates the encounter between Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch intriguingly not in the temple or Jerusalem setting but in the wilderness space, ἔρημος. To better understand the significance of the wilderness space in the narrative, I explore the issues of gender and ethnicity which the Ethiopian eunuch embodies. In both the Greco-Roman world and Judaism, the Ethiopian eunuch was a liminal, marginalized figure. Sexually, he was “unmanly” due to his lack of procreative power and his “effeminate” tendencies. Moreover, his eunuchism blurred the socially constructed binaries of male and female in which men were supposed to be masculine, active, and superior, while women were supposed to be feminine, passive, and inferior. Ethnically, he was an “outsider” who did not share with the Jews or the Greco-Romans a common shared ancestry, history, or religious practices. Among the many outcomes of cross-cultural experiences, encounters with the “ethnic others” could trigger anxieties and clashes, resulting in stereotyping, marginalization, and the establishment of boundaries to keep the “other” out. 

“Using Edward W. Soja’s spatial concept of thirdspace, the space of struggles and possibilities, the wilderness space is not simply a backdrop to the narrative but is key to the narrative’s meaning. In this symbolic wilderness space, Luke’s audiences were challenged to reckon with socio-religious issues, as well as questions of identities as the mission of the church expanded into the wider Mediterranean world. In addition, the wilderness space functions as the discursive field or the alternative space to the Jerusalem Temple where strict religious rules and regulations precluded many from having access to God. Seen in this perspective, God is not confined only to the temple and does not belong only to the people of Israel. Rather, God is present wherever the gospel is preached, and access to God is available to all.”

Fr. Vien moves to Hales Corners in the next few weeks where he will be assigned to ministry at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology. In the months ahead he will also work on prepare his dissertation for publication as a book, and on other writing projects such as book reviews and articles.

“A special shout-out to Fr. John Czyzynski, SCJ,” added Fr. Vien. “I am grateful for his meticulous proofreading of the draft of my work.”