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The Pure and the Pious: Corporeality, Flow, and Transgression in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity

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Abstract This article addresses a key problem at the intersection of medicine and religion: how do people fashion themselves into moral subjects in the midst of acute bodily suffering? In particular, how can we situate the wounded, porous body of obstetric fistula in relation to Ethiopian Orthodox Christian ideals of purity and containment? Through an analysis of regimens of embodied piety among Orthodox Christians in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, this article seeks to delineate the multiplicity of ways in which fistula sufferers are able to exercise their religiosity in the face of their physical affliction, and how they use the very symbols that would seem to alienate them to achieve a powerfully enlightened subject position. This study thus complicates static notions of the sacred to reveal the recursive nature of holiness, and shows that recognition of the body’s imperfection is built into the very system of Orthodox belief and practice.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology Brandeis University Brown 228 Waltham, MA 02453 hannig@brandeis.edu

10.1163/15700666-12341254
/content/journals/10.1163/15700666-12341254
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/content/journals/10.1163/15700666-12341254
2013-01-01
2016-12-04

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