Body: II. Cultural and Religious

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Scholarly and popular thought alike have typically assumed that the human body is a fixed, material entity subject to the empirical rules of biological science. Such a body exists prior to the mutability and flux of cultural change and diversity, and is characterized by unchangeable inner necessities. Beginning with the historical work of Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias, the anthropology of Pierre Bourdieu, and phenomenological philosophers such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Hans Jonas, Max Scheler, and Gabriel Marcel, however, scholarship in the social sciences and humanities has begun to challenge this notion. Late twentieth-century commentators argue that the body can no longer be considered as a fact of nature, but is instead "an entirely problematic notion" (Vernant, p. 20); that "the body has a history" insofar as it behaves in new ways at particular historical moments (Bynum, 1989, p. 171); that the body should be understood not as a constant amidst flux but as an epitome of that flux (Frank); and that "the universalized natural body is the gold standard of hegemonic social discourse" (Haraway, 1990, p. 146).

This scholarly perspective—that the body has a history, and is not only a biological entity but also a cultural phenomenon—goes hand in hand with the increasing number and complexity of bioethical issues in contemporary society, many of which have strong religious overtones. Some decades ago the only such issue arose in cases where religious and biomedical priorities conflicted in the treatment of illness. Within the majority population, various groups such as Christian Scientists, some Pentecostal Christians, and members of small fundamentalist sects occasionally have created controversy by refusing medical treatment on the grounds that faith in medicine undermined faith in God, in other words, that since healing should occur only at the will and discretion of the deity, human medicine was presumptuous upon divine prerogative. This was especially problematic when young children suffered and were kept from medical treatment by their parents. In Native American communities it has been, and occasionally remains, the practice for ill people to seek biomedical treatment only after having exhausted the resources of their spiritually based traditional medical systems. This occasionally results in the discovery of serious illness such as cancer or tuberculosis at a very advanced stage, and creates a dilemma for healthcare personnel who are supportive of indigenous traditions yet concerned that their patients also receive timely biomedical treatment.

More recently, the number of bioethical issues with religious overtones has multiplied. The legality of and right of access by women to abortion have been defined not only as issues of civil rights and feminist politics, but also as religious and moral issues. Surrogate motherhood and donorship of sperm and eggs raise ethical dilemmas regarding the biological, legal, and spiritual connections between parent and child. There is also concern about the apparently godlike ability of biotechnology to determine the genetic makeup of the human species; some see this approaching with the increasing sophistication of genetic engineering and the massive Human Genome Project, which will catalogue all possible human genetic characteristics. At the other end of the life course, the problems of euthanasia, technological prolongation of vital functions by means of life-support machines, and physician-assisted death raise moral and spiritual questions about the prerogative to end the life of oneself or of another. Legal and ethical acceptance of the definition of death as "brain death" has particular significance in that the brain dead individual's other organs are still viable for transplantation to other persons. In the United States the bioethical dilemma is whether the brain-dead person can morally be considered dead until all other vital functions have ceased, or whether removing those organs constitutes killing the patient. In Japan an added dilemma is that a person's spiritual destiny as a deceased ancestor depends in part on maintaining an intact physical body.

Each of these issues has to do with religion, not only because religions often define them as within their moral purview, but also because at a more profound level, each taps a concern that is at the very core of religious thought and practice: the problem of what it means to be human. More precisely, the problem is the nature of human persons, of what it means to have and be a body, of life and death, and of the spiritual destiny of humankind. In the succeeding sections of this entry these issues are placed in the context of recent thought about the cultural and historical nature of the human body, about religious conceptualizations of the body, and about religious practices that focus on the body.

The Body as a Cultural Phenomenon

It has been suggested that in contemporary civilization the human body can no longer be considered a bounded entity, in part because of the destabilizing impact of "consumer culture" and its accompanying barrage of images. These images stimulate needs and desires, as well as the corresponding changes in the way the social space we inhabit is arranged with respect to physical objects and other people (Featherstone et al.). In this process, fixed "life-cycle" categories have become blurred into a more fluid "life course" in which one's look and feel may conflict with one's biological and chronological age; some people may even experience conflict between age-appropriate behavior and subjective experience. In addition, the goals of bodily self-care have changed from spiritual salvation, to enhanced health, and finally to a marketable self (Featherstone et al.; cf. Foucault; and Bordo). As Susan Bordo has observed, techniques of body care are not directed primarily toward weight loss, but toward formation of body boundaries to protect against the eruption of the "bulge, " and serve the purposes of social mobility more than the affirmation of social position. Bodily discipline is no longer incompatible with hedonism but has become a means toward it, so that one not only exercises to look good, but also wants to look good while exercising. This stands in sharp contrast not only to early historical periods but to other societies such as that of Fiji where the cultivation of bodies is not regarded as an enhancement of a performing self but as a responsibility toward the community (Becker).

This transformation in the body as a cultural phenomenon has been related by Emily Martin (1992) to a global change in social organization. In her view the "Fordist body" structured by principles of centralized control and factory-based production is on the decline. It is being replaced by a body characteristic of late capitalism, a socioeconomic regime characterized by technological innovation, specificity, and rapid, flexible change. She sees these changes particularly vividly in the domains of reproductive biology, immunology, and sexuality, all of which are increasingly intense loci of bioethical debate.

With respect to immunology in particular, Donna Haraway (1991) understands the concept of the "immune system" as an icon of symbolic and material systematic "difference" in late capitalism. The concept of the immune system was developed in its present form as recently as the 1970s, and was made possible by a profound theoretical shift from focus on individual organisms to focus on cybernetic systems. The result has been the transformation of the body into a cybernetic body, one that for Haraway requires a "cyborg ethics and politics" that recognizes radical pluralism, the inevitability of multiple meanings and imperfect communication, and physical groundedness in a particular location.

This groundedness thus extends to biology itself. In addition to immunology, this is evident in recent feminist theory that eliminates "passitivity" as an intrinsic characteristic of the female body and reworks the distinctions between sex and gender, female sexual pleasure, and the act of conception (Jacobus et al.; Bordo; Haraway, 1990). With biology no longer a monolithic objectivity, the body is transformed from object to agent (Haraway, 1991). The bioethical implications of the body as experiencing agent are evident in recent social science work on the experience of illness (Kleinman; Murphy), pain (Good et al.), and religious healing (Csordas, 1990, 1994). New disciplinary syntheses grounded in a paradigm of embodiment are emerging in disciplines such as anthropology (Csordas, 1990, 1994), sociology (Turner), and history (Berman).

Many of these new syntheses are predicated on a critique of tenacious conceptual dualities such as those between mind and body, subject and object, and sex and gender (Haraway, 1991; Frank; Ots; Csordas, 1990; Leder). Drew Leder, for example, begins his critique of Cartesian mind–body dualism with the observation that in everyday life our experience is characterized by the disappearance of our body from awareness. He contrasts this with a description of dysappearance , the vivid but unwanted consciousness of one's body in disease, distress, or dysfunction. He then argues that it is the very sense of disappearance, itself an essential characteristic of our bodily existence, that leads to the body's self-concealment, and thus to a mistaken notion of the immateriality of mind and thought. That such a notion is cultural is evident in the technological domain if one compares Western navigational techniques, which are based on intellectualist mathematical instruments and calculations, with traditional Polynesian navigation, which in contrast relied on concrete sensory information regarding clouds and light, wave patterns, star movement, and the behavior of birds (Leder). Leder further suggests that the Western tradition compounds the error by construing the body as a source of epistemological error, moral error, and mortality. In contrast, based on a phenomenological appreciation of unitary embodiment, he suggests the possibility of a new ethics of compassion, absorption, and communion.

The contemporary cultural transformation of the body can be conceived not only in terms of revising biological essentialism and collapsing conceptual dualities, but also in discerning an ambiguity in the boundaries of corporeality itself. Haraway points to the boundaries between animal and human, between animal/human and machine, and between the physical and nonphysical (Haraway, 1991). Michel Feher construes the boundary between human and animal or automaton (machine) at one end of a continuum whose opposite pole is defined by the boundary between human and deity. Cultural definitions of the boundary between human and divine can be significant given the circumstances of corporeal flux and bodily transformation sketched above. This is especially the case when the question goes beyond the distinction between natural and supernatural bodies, or between natural corporeality and divine incorporeality, to the question posed by Feher of the kind of body with which members of a culture endow themselves in order to come into relation with the kind of deity they posit to themselves (Feher). Thus, if the body is a cultural phenomenon in a way that makes its understanding essential to questions of bioethics, religion is an important domain of culture to address in understanding the body.

Religious Conceptualizations of the Body

Perhaps the most vivid example from the domain of religion that the body is a cultural phenomenon subject to cultural transformations is given in the classic work on New Caledonia by Maurice Leenhardt, the anthropologist and missionary. Leenhardt recounts his discovery of the impact of Christianity on the cosmocentric world of the New Caledonian Canaques via a conversation with an aged indigenous philosopher. Leenhardt suggested that the Europeans had introduced the notion of "spirit" to the indigenous way of thinking. His interlocutor contradicted him, pointed out that his people had "always acted in accord with the spirit. What you've brought us is the body" (Leenhardt, p. 164). In brief, the indigenous worldview held that the person was not individuated but was diffused with other persons and things in a unitary sociomythic domain:

[The body] had no existence of its own, nor specific name to distinguish it. It was only a support. But henceforth the circumscription of the physical being is completed, making possible its objectification. The idea of a human body becomes explicit. This discovery leads forthwith to a discrimination between the body and the mythic world. (Leenhardt, p. 164)

There could be no more powerful evidence that the body is a cultural and historical phenomenon. Insofar as the objectification of the body has the consequences of individuation of the psychological self and the instantiation of dualism in the conceptualization of human being, it has implications for defining a very different regime of ethical relationships and responsibilities. This is not only a relative difference, but—as is clear in the missionary example of Leenhardt—one that has consequences for relations between different cultures.

ANCIENT GREEK CONCEPTUALIZATIONS. There is much more to the cultural and historical variability of the human body, however. For the ancient Greeks, as described by Jean-Pierre Vernant, the distinction between the bodies of humans and the bodies of deities was not predicated on that between corporeality and incorporeality, but on the notion that the divine bodies were complete and human bodies incomplete. Furthermore, this distinction emphasized not bodily features or morphology, but the being's place on a continuum of value and foulness. Bodies were understood as mutable along these dimensions without losing their identity, and thus deities could be simultaneously very heavy and very light, moving over the earth without quite touching it while leaving exceedingly deep footprints (Vernant). The deities thus had bodies that were not bodies, but they had characteristics that never ruptured their continuity with human bodies, and which therefore defined human bodies by their very otherness. The existence of the deities guaranteed that in Greek culture qualities such as royalty and beauty were not abstract concepts or categories, since they were concretely embodied in beings like Zeus and Aphrodite (Vernant).

HINDU CONCEPTUALIZATIONS. In the Hindu worldview atman, "self, " is understood not as soul in distinction to body, but as the center in relation to an existential periphery, or as whole in relation to parts (Malamud). The ritual act of sacrifice is personified and has a body, or in other words the body is both the model for and origin of sacrifice (Malamud). The individual bodies are inherently sexual and are portrayed as couples, or mithuna. The masculine is invariably singular and the feminine plural, as in the sun of day in relation to the multiple stars of night, or the singularity of act/mind/silence in relation to the multiplicity of speech. In contrast to the mutable but distinctly individual body of the Greek deities, Hindu ritual portrays a rich "combinatory of the sexes" that constitutes a way of mythically thinking with the body. The mithunas achieve cosmic engenderment (begetting) through diverse body operations including dismemberment, multiplication of body parts, replication of bodies, birth, coupling/copulation, merging/incorporation, transformation and transgendering, and the emission of body products/fluids (Malamud).

JEWISH AND CHRISTIAN CONCEPTUALIZATIONS. If, in Hinduism, engenderment is timeless and instantiated in the cosmos by the sacrificial act, in Judaism it is linear and instantiated in history by the act of procreation. Creation and engenderment are two moments of the same process, a "hiero-history" in which human generation does not imitate a divine process, but is that process (Mopsik). Whereas in the Christian perspective the biblical injunction for man and woman to "become one flesh" is understood to refer to the indissolubility of marriage, in the Jewish perspective it is understood as the production of a child, and the birth of Christ outside the historical chain of engenderments is the basis for the Pauline splitting of the spiritual and carnal individual (Mopsik). This view is elaborated further in the Jewish kabbalistic tradition's notion of the sefirot, the tengendered emanations of the Infinite that are represented as combining to form a body (Mopsik).

In sharp contrast to the Jewish kabbalistic elaboration of engenderment as life, the Christian gnostic tradition elaborates it as death (Mopsik). Gnosticism sees the corporeal form as the creation of monstrous demiurges or archons, foremost among whom is Ialdabaoth, the equivalent of Jehovah. The human condition is symbolized in the gnostic tale of the archons' rape of Eve, who escapes with her psychic body while her "shadow" or material body is defiled (Williams). The latter is a prison or garment, beastly because humans are created by beasts. Sexuality is an aspect of this beastliness, and hence cannot be part of an embodied sacred process, while the upright posture that distinguishes us from animals is attributed to a separate spark from the authentically spiritual Human (Williams).

From a more mainstream Christian perspective, the profound cultural implications of Feher's question of the kind of body people endow themselves with in order to come into relation with the sacred (Feher) can be seen by considering the Eucharist. That the consumption of bread and wine transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ is essentially a form of ritual cannibalism is emphasized by the story of a miracle in which a priest who doubted the divine reality of the Eucharist was forced to experience the bloody flesh, so that he could come to appreciate God's graciousness in presenting it in the tamer appearance of bread and wine (Camporesi; see also Bynum, 1989). In earlier periods of Christianity the spiritual power of the Eucharist extended to the nourishment of the body, and this, not through ingestion but by means of its aroma (Camporesi). Unlike ordinary food, however, it does not become us, but we become it through its sanctifying power (Camporesi). Great anxiety was created among priests with regard to the immense responsibility of transforming something dead into something alive by the utterance of a few words, and among communicants because of the inclusion of such a sacred substance in such a profane terrain as the digestive tract—hence the importance of a fast before communion (Camporesi). Yet because the Eucharist was thought to release its grace only in the stomach, sick people who could not eat were excluded (Camporesi). When later the substantial bread was replaced by thin wafers, it became common to let the wafer melt in one's mouth. Well into the twentieth century, Catholics were taught that biting or chewing the Eucharist was an insult and injury to the deity that could result in divine retribution.

MEDIEVAL CONCEPTUALIZATIONS. Recent work on medieval Christian spirituality relates to the notion of the body as a cultural phenomenon. Caroline Walker Bynum (1989) has documented the prominence during the years 1200–1500 of a "somatic spirituality" that stands in contrast to gnostic rejection of the body, and that reflects a less dualist mentality than has heretofore been attributed to the thought of this period. In general, a great deal of concern with embodiment was evidenced in speculation about whether the final "resurrection of the body" might be a natural consequence of human nature rather than a discrete divine act to occur at the Last Judgment, and whether we will taste and smell heaven as well as see it.

The medieval body was defined less by its sexuality than by notions of fertility and decay, but the contrast between male and female was as important as that between body and soul. Somatic spirituality was especially evident among female mystics, who—in contrast to their more cerebral male counterparts' experience of stillness and silence— tended to blur the boundaries among the spiritual, psychological, bodily, and sexual by cultivating a sensualized relationship of human body with divine body. Bynum draws on the cultural-historical context to understand why the male-dominated ecclesiastical hierarchy allowed this female spirituality to flourish: evidence was needed against the contemporary dualist heresy of the Cathars; because they were denied education in Latin, they wrote in the less linear and more oral style of the vernacular; they were encouraged to act out maternal roles vis-à-vis Christ (1989).

In this context the relation between the genders took on remarkable properties. Although ideally a woman would die to defend her holy chastity, it was as likely for a holy man to be resurrected in order to complete a virtuous task. In other ways the genders were blurred, since it was thought that all had both genders within, and that men and women had identical organs with only their internal and external arrangements being different. Because of the powerful symbolic association of the female and the fleshly, while holy women sometimes experienced being the mother or lover of Christ, their nature often allowed them to mystically become the flesh of Christ. By the same reasoning, since body is equivalent to female, the incarnate Christ had a female nature, and the image of Christ as mother became a feature of medieval iconography (Bynum, 1989).

Religious Practices and the Body

FASTING. The cultural-historical transformation of the body is highlighted by comparison of fasting as a technique of the body in the medieval somatic spirituality with the phenomenon of anorexia nervosa in the late twentieth century. In a study of 261 holy women in Italy since the year 1200, Rudolf Bell distinguishes between contemporary anorexia nervosa and what he calls "holy anorexia." While the former is regarded as a syndrome of clinical pathology, in the latter, "the suppression of physical urges and basic feelings— fatigue, sexual drive, hunger, pain—frees the body to achieve heroic feats and the soul to commune with God" (p. 13). There are parallels between the two conditions and historical epochs. Bell suggests that the observation that the internal locus of evil as a corrupting force for women in the Middle Ages, in distinction to the external locus of sin as a response to external stimulus for men, corresponds to the Freudian model of anorexia nervosa as a food/sex oral fixation. In addition, in both, "the main theme is a struggle for control, for a sense of identity, competence, and effectiveness" (Hilde Bruch, quoted in Bell, p. 17). However, there is a critical difference, and "whether anorexia is holy or nervous depends on the culture in which a young woman strives to gain control of her life" (Bell, p. 20).

Bynum (1987) warns against the assumption that these are precisely the same phenomenon, given theological meaning in one epoch and psychiatric meaning in another. She points out that even medieval writers had more than one paradigm for explaining fasting—that it could be supernaturally caused, naturally caused, or feigned—and that there was a clear distinction between choosing to renounce food and the inability to eat. In both historical cases, the behavior "is learned from a culture that has complex and longstanding traditions about women, about bodies, and about food, " including what kind of behaviors are in need of cure(p. 198). It is a profoundly cultural fact that in the patristic era miraculous fasting was attributed largely to men, while in the medieval period it was characteristic of women; likewise it is cultural that in the medieval period the illnesses of men were more likely thought of as needing to be cured, while those of women were to be endured. Furthermore, in the later Middle Ages fasting was associated with a wider array of miracles and practices of somatic spirituality, including subsistence on the Eucharist, stigmata, espousal rings, sweet-smelling bodies, bodily elongation, and incorruptibility. Some of the behavior of these women fits the pattern of nineteenth-century "hysteria, " some is clearly the result of other illnesses, and some follows the thematic of control, altered body concept/perceptions, and euphoria. Yet one cannot be sure whether symptoms are associated with an inability to eat or are the result of freely chosen ascetic fasting. Finally, insofar as psychodynamic explanation can explain only individual cases, Bynum concludes that it is less helpful to know that contemporary labels can in some cases be applied to the medieval phenomenon than to account for cultural symbols that give meaning to the phenomenon, such as body, food, blood, suffering, generativity, or hunger (1987).

FAITH HEALING. Other contemporary religious practices equally require an appreciation of the body as a cultural phenomenon. How, for example, can we understand the imputed efficacy of "faith healing" among contemporary Christians? An understanding of the body as a cultural phenomenon suggests that ritual healing operates on a margin of disability that is present in many conditions. It is well known, for example, that some people who become "legally blind" are able to engage in a wide range of activities, while others retreat to a posture of near total disability and inactivity. Likewise, persons with chronic pain in a limb may be physically able to move that limb, but refrain from doing so for lack of sufficient motivation to make the risk of pain worthwhile. Disability is thus constituted as a habitual mode of engaging the world. The process of healing is an existential process of exploring this margin of disability, motivated by the conviction of divine power and the committed participant's desire to demonstrate it in himself or herself, as well as by the support of the other assembled devotees and their acclamation for a supplicant's testimony of healing. To be convinced of this interpretation one need only consider the hesitant, faltering steps of the supplicant who, at the healer's request, rises from a wheelchair and shuffles slowly up and down a church aisle; or the slowly unclenching fist of the sufferer of chronic arthritis whose hand is curled by affliction into a permanent fist. Ritual healing allows this by challenging the sensory commitment to a habitual posture, by removing inhibitions on the motor tendency toward static postural tone, and by modulating the somatic mode of attention, that is, a person's attention to his or her own bodily processes in relation to others.

Consider also the practice of "resting in the Spirit" or being "slain in the Spirit" among Charismatic and Pentecostal Christians as evidence for the kind of body with which people endow themselves in order to come into relation with the sacred. In this practice, which occurs primarily in healing services, a person is overcome with divine power, and falls into a semi-swoon characterized by tranquility and motor dissociation. Despite its popularity, or perhaps because of it, resting in the Spirit is a controversial phenomenon for Charismatics, and the heart of the issue is its authenticity. More specifically, critics challenge its authenticity while apologists argue for its beneficial effects in terms of healing and spiritual development. Both sides invoke the same biblical scenarios, such as Saul on the road to Damascus and the apostles confronted by the transfiguration of Jesus, and the same religious writers, including the ecstatic mystics Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, and both sides draw opposing conclusions about whether these constitute examples of resting in the Spirit. They likewise draw opposing conclusions about the historical prototypes of healers known for similar practices, extending backward in time from Kathryn Kuhlman to Charles Finney, George Jeffreys, George Fox, John Wesley, and the fourteenth-century Dominican preacher John Tauler. To be sure, such analogies and precedents suggest that it would be possible to examine the varying meanings of religious falling or swooning across historical and cultural contexts. In the contemporary context, however, the ideological/theological/pastoral debate about authenticity is predicated on the recurrent, constitutive North American psychocultural themes of spontaneity and control, and on the Charismatic cultural definition of the tripartite person as a composite of body, mind, and spirit.

SPIRIT POSSESSION. The sacred swoon leads also to the complex issue of dissociation, common to discussions of "spirit possession." Spirits who inhabit people may be regarded either as malevolent, in which case they must be expelled or exorcised, or as benevolent, in which case becoming possessed is an act of worship and devotion. Possession of both types is widely reported in ethnological literature (Bourguignon), and is increasingly common in contemporary Western society. Not only is the negative, or demonic, variant reported among some varieties of Christian religions, but the positive variant of possession by deities is characteristic of rapidly growing African religions. These include religions based on the Yoruba tradition of Nigeria, such as santeria, candomble, and the related vodun. The Yoruba religion, in which the possessing deities are called orixas, is rapidly aspiring to membership in that select group of "world religions" that once included only so-called "civilized" faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. This cultural development requires a more sophisticated understanding of the possession phenomenon not as mental or cognitive dissociation but as physical and existential incarnation; not as a pathological hysterical amnesia to which the devotee becomes abandoned, but as a form of habitual body memory in which the deity's characteristics are enacted in a contemporary form of somatic spirituality.

ABORTION HEALING RITUALS. A final example of the interplay of religion and bioethics with respect to bodily practices pertains to the contemporary cultural debate over abortion. Among participants in the North American Christian religious movement known as the Charismatic Renewal, and in Japan as a facet of what are called the New Religions, healing rituals are conducted both for the removal of guilt presumed to be experienced by the woman, and for the fetus in order to establish its spiritual status. The American practice is largely a private one that takes place within the membership of a discrete religious movement within Christianity, and is a specific instance of the healing system elaborated within that movement. The Japanese practice has a relatively public profile not limited to a particular social group, and is an instance of a type of ritual common to a variety of forms of Buddhism.

In both societies the affective issue addressed by the ritual is guilt, but whereas in American culture this is guilt occurring as a function of sin, in Japan it is guilt as a function of necessity. For the Americans abortion is an un-Christian act, and both perpetrator and victim must be brought back ritually into the Christian moral and emotional universe; for the Japanese both the acceptance of abortion as necessary and the acknowledgment of guilt are circumscribed within the Buddhist moral and emotional universe. Both rites are intended to heal the distress experienced by the woman, but the etiology of the illness is somewhat differently construed in the two cases. For Charismatics any symptoms displayed by the woman are the result of the abortion as psychological trauma compounded by guilt, along with the more or less indirect effects of the restive fetal spirit "crying out" for love and comfort. In Japan such symptoms are attributed to vengeance and resentment on the part of the aborted fetal spirit that is the pained victim of an unnatural, albeit necessary, act. Finally, not only the etiology but the emotional work accomplished by the two rituals is construed differently. For the Charismatics, this is a work of forgiveness and of emotional "letting go." For the Japanese, in whose cultural context gratitude and guilt are not sharply differentiated, it is a work of thanks and apology to the fetus. Thus, "[t]here is no great need to determine precisely whether one is addressing a guilt-pre-supposing 'apology' to a fetus or merely expressing 'thanks' to it for having vacated its place in the body of a woman and having moved on, leaving her—and her family—relatively free of its physical presence" (LaFleur, p. 147).


The contemporary transformation of the human body and scholarly formulations of it, placed alongside the transformative power of religion in its task of defining what it means to be human, offers an important perspective on issues relevant to bioethics. These range from abortion to brain death, from fasting to resting in the Spirit, from consumer culture to dissociation, and bear on the relation between genders, between cultures, and between the poles of dualities such as mind and body. Such phenomena, and new ways of understanding them, will increasingly come to light with continuing elaboration of the body/culture/religion nexus.

thomas j. csordas (1995)

SEE ALSO: Anthropology and Bioethics; Buddhism, Bioethics in; Christianity, Bioethics in; Death; Embryo and Fetus; Healing; Judaism, Bioethics in; Medical Ethics, History of; Medicine, Art of; Native American Religions, Bioethics in; Sexual Ethics; and other Body subentries


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