Researching Body & Religion

Religious traditions are highly symbolic and effective communication systems. Over time they have developed a sophisticated ‘language’ to communicate their ideas, values, and norms. Central to the system of rules and meanings of many religious traditions is the body, i.e. the status of the body, what should be done with or to the body, or the role of bodily pleasures. To communicate their visions, religions idealize, normatize, gender, denounce, or make bodies fit into their imaginations. What is often overlooked, however, is that ‘this’ idealized, denounced, or imagined body develops its own dynamic in which the body becomes a medium in its own right. As medium, the body bears witness to the religious traditions trying to inscribe their belief systems onto and into the body.

The international and interdisciplinary research project Commun(icat)ing Bodies, thus, understands the body as medium in the communication system ‘religion’ and explores how ‘both bodies’ – the abstract and idealized body and the concrete body existing and living in time and space – tell stories and express religious narratives and structures. Studying the relevance of the body-medium, the conference aims to contribute to a better understanding of how religious communication works and how the body as medium transforms the religious traditions that try to mark the body and inscribe their visions into the body-flesh.

Project Publications:

The results of the research project are disseminated in the following publications:


Ornella, Alexander D. / Knauss, Stefanie / Höpflinger, Anna-Katharina (eds.), Commun(icat)ing Bodies. Body as a Medium in Religious Symbol Systems, Zurich: TVZ, 2014. Read the TOC and the introduction.





knauss-provocationKnauss, Stefanie, More than a Provocation. Sexuality, Media and Theology, Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014. Download the flyer, or read the TOC and introduction.





secondskinGlavac, Monika / Höpflinger, Anna-Katharina / Pezzoli-Olgiati, Daria (eds.), Second Skin. Körper, Kleidung, Religion, Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013. Download the flyer, or read the TOC and introduction.


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