Power of the Body in Representations of Laestadianism

Monday, 11 July 2016: 16:15
Location: Hörsaal 22 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Sandra WALLENIUS-KORKALO, University of Lapland, Finland
This paper examines the power over and power of the body in representations of a conservative Christian religious movement, Laestadianism. Like many religious communities today, as they are increasingly affected by secular society’s norms and practices, Laestadianism is under pressure to change. Laestadianism is being renegotiated within the community, as well as in public, the media, cultural products, and research. This paper discusses contemporary representations of Laestadianism from Finland and the United States: a film, a television series, a play, and a novel. In them, the complex ways in which lived religiousness is represented through bodily practices become tangible and discernible.

The paper claims that the body is central to the religious and social order of religious groups. Religious norms have a fundamental influence on the embodied subjectivity and everyday life of people in religious communities. The order of bodies in Laestadianism is deeply gendered; the conservative patriarchal social relations and norms control and shape female and male bodies in terms of sexuality and reproduction, dress, movement and being in-common. Still, inescapably, bodies also have an inherent transgressive potential. This paper argues that the perspective of the body is essential in order to make sense of the power relations, structures and dynamics of change within Laestadianism in particular but also within religious groups in more general.