Irmtraud Fischer, who is one of Europe’s most incisive theologians, a scholar of the Old Testament and the first woman to be certified in Catholic theology in Austria, is retiring from the university; but not leaving her theological and gender studies.
Many at the University of Graz greeted her with a symposium entitled Gender - Politics - Religion. Biblical impulses and current resonances. Theologians such as Croatian Sister Rebeka Anić, Italian Adriana Valerio, German Ilse Müllner and the President of the European Society of Women’s Theological Research Gertraud Ladner, moderated by Hungarian Rita Perintfalvi, discussed the current challenges of theological research in gender studies on a European level.
There were speakers on biblical themes, religious phenomena in antiquity, women’s spheres of action in ancient religions, and the interreligious dialogue included the exegetes Maria Häusl from Dresden and Katharina Pyschny from Graz, the religious scholar Jörg Rüpke from Erfurt, Charlotte Fonrobert, a Talmud scholar from Standford, Heidrun Zettelbauer, an historian in gender studies from Graz. In addition, there was the Muslim theologian Dina El Omari from Münster, the Hungarian Jewish feminist Larissza Hrotkó, and the Berlin biblical scholar Rainer Kampling.
The symposium reflected on the life’s work of Irmtraud Fischer, who devoted herself to interdisciplinary research on women as early as the 1980s.
Irmtraud Fischer qualified as a theologian in 1993 and in the same year was appointed to a professorship at the world’s oldest Protestant faculty in Marburg an der Lahn. Then, in 1997, she was called to the newly established chair of Old Testament and theological study of women. During that time, she was president of the ESWTR, where she fostered interreligious dialogue among European women theologians. From 2004 to September 2022, she was Professor of Old Testament Biblical Studies at the Faculty of Catholic Theology of the University of Graz, and from 2007 to 2011, she was Vice-Rector for Research at the same university, which has 30,000 students. For over twenty years, she was a member of the editorial team of the ecumenical and interdisciplinary Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie [Yearbook of Biblical Theology]. With regard to her academic research, her study on the book of Ruth, interpreted as an exegesis of the Torah from the perspective of women, can be considered a trailblazer in biblical studies. Among her many publications, in 2004 she published a trilogy on Old Testament women (matriarchs, counsellors, women prophets) which has been translated into several languages (in Italian only the first volume with the title Donne che lottano con Dio, [Women Struggling with God], Morcelliana, 2022).
In December 2006, together with the Italian historian Adriana Valerio and the Spanish biblical scholar Mercedes Navarro Puerto, she founded the international research project The Bible and Women (www.bibleandwomen.org). The research has been published in 21 volumes in four languages - English, Italian, Spanish and German - where 300 scholars from around the world work in an interdisciplinary way on a history of the reception of biblical women and gender issues, as well as a history of biblical exegesis by women. For the series, she edited the volumes on the Torah and Prophecy.
Irmtraud Fischer’s final talk at the end of the symposium was entitled Scanning texts. A life as a feminist New Testament scholar and theological gender researcher.