Bodies of Communication


‘Bodies of Communication’ is a research unit fostering conversations on the body as a location of religious expression. As the study of religion moves away from religious doctrines and institutions towards an increasing interest in the lived experience of religion, the human body takes up a more central place. In biblical and related literature, the body is inevitably involved in the discussion of a range of issues; for some the connection is obvious, such as food and sexuality, birth and death, whilst for others the body forms either the background or the method of communication. 

While bodies are often policed in religious settings, this can also occur within a textual environment; bodies also offer a site for resistance and deviance, a means of opposing traditional norms. The abstract body, the idealized body and the concrete body, that exists and lives in time and space, can all be understood to express religious narratives and structures. 

This unit aims to increase understanding of the body as a significant site in the period of ancient Judaism and early Christianity, as well as in a variety of interpretations and resonances. It especially encourages engagement with issues that are relevant for contemporary culture and society.


Body, Representation, Boundaries, Order, Challenge

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Dominika Kurek-Chomycz

Liverpool Hope University

Emma Swai
Liverpool Hope University

Sarah Whitear
KU Leuven

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Sofia 2024 Call for Papers

Following discussions with our research unit participants, for the EABS 2024 conference in Sofia the Bodies of Communication research unit will focus on Traditions of Reading and Interpreting the Body. We intend to explore how texts which focus on, or contain reference to, the body are interpreted, particularly with respect to how their reception history affects the reading and exegesis of those texts.

Biblical writings reflect conceptualisations of the body present in the societies in which they were produced; they also '[reflect] the limitations of culture, but [they do] not transcend culture’ (Sechrest, 2023). Therefore, we would like to consider, firstly, how biblical texts reflect contemporary understandings of the body and, secondly, how changing interpretations of these writings reflect the idea that conceptualisations of the body, or even of specific body parts, have shifted over time. The same text may have been read differently in different periods, with different interpretations becoming normative at different points.

With the social or cultural construction at the time of reading potentially having an influence on the readers’ contextualisation of a text, we welcome papers which consider the interaction between the conceptualisation of the body at the time and context of reading and the conceptualisation present within the text which is being interpreted. 

For example, papers may consider:

  • How do contemporary medical or scientific ideas affect the evaluation or judgement of the body or the interpretation of texts referencing corporeal issues, either directly or indirectly?

  • What do actions performed by the body represent? Are the interpretations reflected in our sources contextual and do they change over time?

  • By whom and in what context is the body, or a particular body part, considered symbolic, and why?

  • Do certain conceptualisations of the bodily create ethically problematic readings? If so, how/where and for whom? As conceptualisations of the body shift over time does this create more or less ethically problematic readings?

  • How do dissonant readings of a particular text in specific cultures or faith communities reflect and/or  influence the construction of the body?

  • Is it possible to trace the development of a particular idea about the body or a specific body part?

  • How do traditions of reading affect intersecting identities such as, but not limited to, gender and disability?

This list is not exhaustive and “body” is to be considered in its widest sense, for example as a whole or in relation to body parts or bodily fluids; we are always open to new and innovative ideas. For all our sessions we welcome papers related to a range of literature, including the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and other Early Jewish and Early Christian writings, as well as their history of interpretation and reception.