David B. Smith

Doctoral Candidate

Bonn Center for Dependency and Slavery Studies
Research Associate in Research Group Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval
Room: 3.022  
Niebuhrstraße 5
D-53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 / (0)228 / 73 62578

Smith_David 2.jpg
© Barbara Frommann

Academic Profile

Masculinities, Homoeroticism and Dependencies in the Early Medieval Penitentials & Ecclesial Law

My dissertation project asks, how did the sexual and gender norms codified in early medieval penitential literature generate new and undergird extant socio-religious structures of asymmetrical dependency concerning masculinities and homoeroticism
in both ecclesial & civil law?

My project grapples with the entanglements of gender, homoeroticism, and covert asymmetrical dependencies in early medieval penitential literature & ecclesial law. In ways both dissimilar and parallel to our own era, religio-cultural sexual and gender norms acted upon early-medieval individuals who deviated from proscribed behavioral patterns in both covert and overt ways. The ‘sexual code(s)’ outlined in the early- medieval Penitentials offer examples of how the foundations were laid for subsequent  sexualized/gendered dependency structures in law, theology, and liturgical praxis.

The three-fold approach of the research group (legal, theological, praxiological) provides a valuable framework for interpreting the power relationship between the norms enshrined in the penitentials and a specified cohort, i.e., males who engaged in homoerotic behavior. My project might also provide valuable insights into the complexities and intersectionalities involved in dependency structures across contexts and cohorts. The primary methodology employed will be that of historical-critical content analysis of the physical, syntactical, referential, and thematic units to be found within extant penitential manuscripts. Depending on the state of the documents, further archival communication research may become necessary. In light of the functional nature of the penitentials, this project will also draw upon hagiographies, classical historiographies, and (possibly) sermons or other faith formation materials from the period to complement my analysis of focal texts. Finally, to ascertain the nature of the entanglements between penitential texts and subsequent developments in ecclesial & civil law, a detailed analysis of the process of synodal promulgation, rejection, and codification of penitential remedies for sin-sickness will be conducted. The goal is to map the conceptual, legal, and praxiological development of ‘fornication’ as it relates to homoeroticism and gender construction (specifically focused on masculinities) on
the micro, meso, and macro levels of human development in church and society.

Since 2021
PhD studies in Protestant Theology (Church History), University of Bonn, Germany

M.A. in Ecumenical Studies, University of Bonn, Germany

Graduate Studies in Social Work as part of the M.Div./MSW Partnership, Princeton Theological Seminary and Rutgers University, United States

M.Div. with a Graduate Certificate in Gender, Women & Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary, United States

B.A. in Religion & Philosophy, Montreat College, United States

since 2021
Research Associate in Research Group Structures of Dependency in the Late Antique and Early Medieval Western Church, University of Bonn, Germany

Research Assistant, Montreat College, United States

Bible & Religion Department Tutor, Montreat College, United States

Nominee for the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst Preis/German Academic Exchange Service Prize (DAAD Prize), Faculty of Protestant Theology, University of Bonn, Germany

Seward Hiltner Award in Theology & Personality, Faculty of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary

BIMUN Emerging Scholars Journal. Inaugural Issue with Jussi Hanhimäki, ‘Seventy-Five Years of Uniting Nations, Fifteen Years of BIMUN’s Lecture Series’ Vol.1.1 (forthcoming, October 2021).

  • Human Rights and Beyond: Liberative Linguistics for Intercultural Religious
    Discourse on Gender & Sexuality in Social Sciences & Development Review,
    Polytechnic University of the Philippines; Manila. Forthcoming, February
  • Is Anyone else out there LGBTQ? – A Question for World Christianity in Human Sexuality & in God’s Canvas of Creation, Jayachitra Lalitha, (ed.) Christian World Imprints; New Delhi. Forthcoming, mid-2021.
  • 2016. The Deceitful Savior and the Emasculated King: Heterosexist Violence. In Judges 3, Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 19 (1), 12–30.
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