How did foreign Christian anti-footbinding activists treat the distinctive forms of human embodiment they encountered in China? What were their assumptions? How should we understand the transition from religious to secular imaginings of the body and its pains? Here I discuss late nineteenth and early twentieth century religion and medicalized hygiene through the voices of two English people who campaigned against and wrote extensively about footbinding. Not an easy story about God traded for Nature, but a far more uneasy and subliminal borrowing and cross-fertilization of tropes between the religious and the scientific. In both evangelical religion and biological science our protagonists created powerful narrative technologies for making cultural process disappear into nature, and thus to re-channel agency, making it available for new projects. Here we see the secular and the religious informing and reinforcing one another as moments in the creation of the modern.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Religious studies