Call for Papers: Special Issue Journal ‘Religion and Gender’ (

Religion, Gender and Body Politics


This special issue is the follow-up of the conference ‘Religion, Gender and Body Politics. Post-secular, post-colonial and queer perspectives’, held at Utrecht University 12-14 February 2015 (see We invite paper presenters, participants and other scholars working in these themes to submit an abstract for this special issue before October 1, 2015.



As sign and site of individual and collective identity profiling the human body has gained increasing importance and attention in today’s culturally and religiously diverse societies. Worldwide many ideological conflicts on the management of diversity and the role of religion in the public sphere are being played out on ‘the body’. The fierceness of debates concerning the public bodily expression of religion – for example religious dress, circumcision and sexual abuse – conceals the fact that bodies in present-day society are governed, regulated, shaped and represented in many, also secular, ways. For instance, by subjecting oneself to ‘self-care regimes’ (Bauman 1992) by visiting gyms, spas and organic food stores, one can acquire the ‘physical capital’ (Bourdieu 1998) necessary to display the fit and healthy body that has become the dominant model of our times and that is encouraged through government-sponsored sports programs, television commercials and real-life shows (e.g. My Big Fat Diet Show). As Schilling (1993) argues, the central position of the body within contemporary ‘somatic society’ (Turner 1992) reflects a number of social insecurities. Women’s emancipation has led to uncertainty about gender roles and, consequently, the over-emphasis of traditional expressions of masculinity and femininity; medical interventions prolong life but lead to insecurities about death and the struggle against mortality and its effect on the body; and technological innovation leads to questions about the limits and boundaries of what actually constitutes the human body. Not only does the earlier mentioned excessive focus on religious bodily practices conceal the fact that there are more general cultural insecurities about embodiment at work, it also conceals the fact that in practice the boundaries between “religious” and “secular” bodily practices are often blurred.


Special Issue Description: Aims and Perspectives

In the conference we explored why and how the gendered body has become a highly contested and constitutive site of dynamic secular and religious (identity) politics, ideologies and practices in contemporary societies worldwide. In the special issue, we specifically aim to focus on body politics, questioning the ways in which intersecting ideologies of religion, secularism and gender materialise through individual and collective bodies, as well as the resistances to these practices and policies that regulate and discipline the body. The body as a contested site in contemporary societies is often the body of a gendered, sexual, religious or ethnic other (e.g., women, LGBT’s, migrants, or colonial others). These discursive practices of “othering” presuppose a clearly defined “we” superior to the “other”, thereby reinforcing related dichotomies (e.g., West-East, male-female, religious-secular, straight-gay) and their power relations. The disciplining of bodily practices appears to take place mainly at the level of institutionalised religion and secularism where ideologies and politics of gender, sexuality and ethnicity are imposed. However, when we look at how people live their bodies, creative and non-normative body politics and practices can be identified that question, resist or inform these ideologies and politics. The deconstruction of the normative regulation and representation of the body should therefore not be investigated along the lines of the public-private divide, but in a manner that questions this divide and that is attentive to the ways in which lived religion and lived secularism permeate the until recently virtually uncontested boundaries between the visible, public and institutional on the one hand and the invisible, private and personal on the other.


In order to further explore and deepen our knowledge of the way in which (among others) religion, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and class are part of the construction and disciplining of the body, papers in the special issue should take at least two contemporary critical perspectives in the humanities and qualitative social sciences, such as postcolonial criticism, post- secularism, feminist and queer theories. These critical perspectives challenge persisting dichotomies in the study of religion and gender, like the public/private and religious/secular binaries, and Western and heteronormative dominant models of knowledge.


Call for papers

In this special issue we welcome contributions that:


  • theoretically or empirically challenge the secular/religious and public/private binaries in understanding contemporary body politics;
  • use theoretical approaches drawing from insights in post-secular, postcolonial, queer and gender theories, clarifying body practices as a contested site of religious and secular politics;
  • do not only explore expressions and accounts of ideal religious and secular practices and norms, but also their manifold articulations with all the lived ambiguities and ambivalences;
  • suggest, imagine or develop innovative methodologies in order to understand the complex ways in which religious and secular identities are formed through bodily politics.


Moreover, we encourage an interdisciplinary approach, welcoming insights from, amongst others, gender studies, men and masculinity studies, disability studies, theology, religious studies, anthropology, history, literature, cultural studies and media studies.


Editorial team

Prof. dr. Anne-Marie Korte

Dr. Mariecke van den Berg

Kathrine van den Bogert, MA




Practical Information


Please send an abstract of maximum 1000 words consisting of:

  • Main question
  • Research methods/approach
  • Material (interviews, ethnographic work, literary works, academic texts etc.)
  • Preliminary conclusions



  • Abstract: October 1, 2015
  • Authors notification: October 9, 2015
  • Full paper: January 31, 2016
  • Your paper will be peer reviewed by two anonymous peer-reviewers.
  • Expected publishing date: Autumn 2016


  • For submitting your abstract and more information you can contact the editorial team via .