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Subjugating the body

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Chapter Summary

New prospects have been opened by the return to the body in feminist scholarship. The focus on embodiment can reveal how experience is grounded within a social and material environment and makes it possible to admit women's particular position in the world and their difference to men. For instance, Caroline Bynum's (1987: 30) study of medieval Christianity suggests that the women's focus on the body is grounded in 'natural' experiences and sensations derived from giving birth, lactating, serving and sacrifice such as preparing and distributing food. These differ from the experiences of men, who, according to Bynum (ibid.) focus more on symbols of wealth and power. Implicit in this formulation is that women are different to men because of their 'bodies'. Talal Asad powerfully argues that in the religious context, sensual desire becomes converted into virtue and love of God.

Keywords: Caroline Bynum; medieval Christianity; religious context; Talal Asad



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