From 12 February 2015 to 14 February 2015

Conference on Religion, Gender and Body Politics

Moslima ©

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’. Subjects of debate have not only become religious dress (hijab, burqa, kippa), but also other body-related cultural and religious practices, such as male and female circumcision or food regulations (e.g., ritual slaughter and religious fasting). Therefore, in February 2015, a special conference will take place about the interrelation of gender, religion and the body. The event is organised on behalf of the international research project 'Interdisciplinary Innovations in the Study of Religion and Gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives', coordinated by Prof. Annemarie Korte (UU) and Dr Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds). 

A 'somatic society'

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. The fierceness of debates concerning the public bodily expression of religion – in particular Islam – conceals the fact that bodies in present-day society are governed, regulated, shaped and represented in many ways, often unrelated, or even in opposition, to religion.

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 a fit and healthy body. This particular type of body has become the dominant model of our times and is encouraged through government-sponsored sports programs, television commercials and real-life shows. As Schilling (1993) argues, the central position of the body within the contemporary ‘somatic society’ (Turner 1992) reflects a number of social insecurities. For instance, women’s emancipation has led to uncertainty about gender roles and, consequently, the over-emphasis of traditional expressions of masculinity and femininity.


The conference's aim is to explore 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 this line of thought, the body is regarded as simultaneously an empirical entity (e.g., the human or animal body), a discursive practice (e.g., the body politics or the body of Christ), and a focus of technologies of the self (e.g., ecstatic or ascetic bodies).

Keynote speakers are:

  • Prof. Minoo Moallem (Gender and Women’s Studies, University of California, Berkeley)
  • Prof. Yvonne Sherwood (Biblical Studies and Politics, University of Kent)
  • Prof. Ulrike Auga (Theology and Gender Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin)
  • Prof. Scott Kugle (South Asian and Islamic Studies, Emory University, Atlanta)
  • Prof. Sarojini Nadar (Gender and Religion, University of KwaZulu-Natal)

>> View the abstracts of the keynote lectures (pdf)

About the project

This conference is organised as the final event of the international research project 'Interdisciplinary Innovations in the Study of Religion and Gender: Postcolonial, Post-secular and Queer Perspectives'. This project is an international research and networking project. It is initiated and coordinated by the Chair of Religion, Gender and Modernity at the Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University (the Netherlands). The project is funded by the Netherlands Organisation of Scientific Research (NWO) in the programme Internationalisation in the Humanities. The conference will also host the celebratory launch of the newly established International Association for the Interdisciplinary Study of Religion and Gender (IARG).

Start date and time
12 February 2015
End date and time
14 February 2015
Entrance fee
€ 200