Corporal Knowledge: Early Christian Bodies Early Christian Bodies

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What do we know in our bodies? Jennifer A. Glancy uses this fundamental question to illuminate the cultural history of early Christianity. Studying representations in sources from Paul to Augustine, she traces the centrality of bodies to early Christian social dynamics and discourse.

Glancy offers in-depth analyses of important texts, historical problems, and theological questions. How did Paul present his suspiciously marked body as a source of knowledge and power? How did the corporal conditioning of the Roman slaveholding system infiltrate-and deform-articulations of Christian sexual ethics, and create parallel systems of virtue for elite Christians and enslaved Christians? Early Christians imagined Mary’s body at the moment she gave birth; what do these primitive images and narratives suggest about ancient-and modern-understandings of maternal epistemology?

In an approach to cultural history informed by the writings of philosophical and sociological theorists of corporeality, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Pierre Bourdieu, and Linda Martín Alcoff, Glancy shows that the cultural habituation of bodies caused Christians of the first centuries to replicate hierarchical patterns of social relations prevalent in the Roman Empire. These embodied patterns of relations are seemingly at odds with the good news of Christian preaching.

Corporal Knowledge sheds light on the many ways in which social location is known in the body, and shows the significance of that insight for a cultural history of Christian origins. By framing questions about the function of corporal epistemology, Glancy offers new insights into bodies, identities, and early Christian understandings of what it means to be human.

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