Embodied religion

About the research

SIIBS Embodied Religion research theme supports inquiry into how religion is experienced through and advertised on the body. For instance, Embodied Religion research seeks to highlight the physicality of ancient and modern religious experience, from martyrologies’ focus on physical pain and suffering, to the smells, tastes and sounds that are part and parcel of religious experience, and to the sartorial aspects of soteriology.

Research Aims

In focusing on the physical aspects of religious behaviour and religious identity, ER research especially highlights the religious activity of non-elite participants, since theology is and has often been committed to writing by elite men. As such, these findings will certainly intersect with notions of gender, sexuality, race, and class. In antiquity, as today, clothing worn on the body signifies participation in or exclusion from particular religious groups or rituals - for instance, Augustus's regulations concerning women's clothing in the first century reflect anxieties about what was considered appropriate for elite Roman women. Similar anxieties also found their way into the texts which make up the New Testament. Likewise, the food prepared and consumed by members of a religious community creates a delineation between insider and outsider in part because of how taste as a sense works, whether the meal is a first-century passover supper or a communion cup at Sheffield Cathedral.

Future projects

Work has only recently begun in this important field. We hope to support research in each of the three main areas of clothing, the senses, and the body in general. In the future we aim to offer modules in areas such as ancient Mediterranean food and religion, where students would both research economic aspects of meals (such as scarcity and demand), as well as cook and taste recipes preserved from antiquity. This work confirms the University of Sheffield's current reputation as a place that supports cutting-edge research in religion and the Bible.

Dr Meredith Warren

mwDr Meredith J. C. Warren works on sensory modes of religious experience, and in particular, on the frequently overlooked sense of taste.

Her current book project, titled Hierophagy: Transformational Eating in Ancient Literature, examines how characters in literature are transformed by eating otherworldly food. An article emerging from this research, “My Heart Poured Forth Understanding: 4 Ezra’s Fiery Cup as Hierophagic Consumption,” was recently published in the journal Studies in Religion, and a forthcoming essay on Persephone's pomegranate will be included in Taste and the Ancient Senses, due to be published in 2018.

Twitter: @DrMJCWarren

Email: m.j.warren@sheffield.ac.uk

What's on

On Thursday, 16 June 2016, the Sheffield Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies lauched its new research theme, Embodied Religion, with a wine reception and public lecture by visiting scholar, Dr Shayna Sheinfeld (Centre College).


Dr Meredith Warren presents her latest research at  Festival of the Arts and Humanities