People like us: Intimacy, distance, and the gender of saints

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Abstract

In Catholicism, the work of attributing gender to God, saints, and even humans who carry out sacred forms of labor is complex and unstable. The more intensely divine a sacred being is, the harder it is to gender them in any fixed, dyadic sense. Gendering the divine is part of a deeply held Catholic proclivity to familiarize the Godhead. Attributing gender to God or saints is inherently possible and indeed necessary, but it is also always open to contestation. In this paper I explore how gender ambiguity both indexes and resolves a double imperative in Catholic practice: to identify with and promote a sense of contiguity between human and divine forms and to maintain a sense of distance and unknowability between worldly and otherworldly forms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S271-S280
Number of pages10
JournalCurrent Anthropology
Volume55
Issue numberS10
Early online date13 Nov 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2014

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