Religion and the Body

Contributors include Kaucyila Brooke, Ann Burlein, Lindsay Caplan, Janet R. Jakobsen, Ins Kromminga, Laura Levitt, Minoo Moallem, Carlo Quispe, Catherine Sameh, Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Saadia Toor, Dominic Wetzel, Melissa Wilcox, Paul Wirhun, and David Wojnarowicz.

Religion, secularism, the body, and sexuality are often bound together in our national imagination, and indeed, our national conversations. As this issue vividly exposes, common assumptions of religion as the site of corporeal negation or punishment and secularism as ever-stalwart friend to the body and sexuality permeate political and cultural discourses. Ideas about morality, relationships, intimacy, health, medicine, the family, war, justice, love and the good life repeatedly hinge on these counterposed amalgamations, as if distinguishing between the religious and the secular (ideas, people, spaces, communities) will reveal the putative truth of our bodies and bodily practices, which will, in turn, reveal the putative truth of our lives.

This journal issue, as timely as ever, ruptures these assumptions, showing both the deep inextricability of religious and secular discourses in constructing the body, as well as the ways in which such discourses alone can never tell the complete story of gendered and sexual bodies and practices. Religion and secularism are always caught up in history, geography and politics, as each author shows, and their relationships to gender, sexuality and the body shift according to additional social forces at play. The visual contributions to Religion and the Body add an irreverent, but no less thoughtful examination of such relations, tackling deeply held suppositions, and queering the troubling oppositional discourses about religion and secularism. Recent movements, from Cairo to Wall Street, have exposed this false binary and deepened our understanding of the ways in which religion and secularism come together—in ideas, practices and bodies—in complex and stunning forms.

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