1st Edition

Blasphemous Art? Religion, Gender and Sexuality in Arts and Popular Culture

    264 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book explores the critical and transformative potential of arts and popular culture for constructions of religion, gender and sexuality. Doing so, it deploys and develops the notion of blasphemous art, honouring and building on the work of Anne-Marie Korte. Deliberately articulated with a question mark, Blasphemous Art? raises questions about the spaces, methods and resources available to individuals and communities at the gendered, sexual and racialized margins of society to tell their stories, claim their bodies and perform symbolic and sacred meaning, and it analyses the productive effects – both aesthetically, politically and theoretically – of such provocative work. The chapters focus on a wide range of artistic and cultural expressions, featuring case studies from across Europe, South Africa, Israel and the United States.  Drawing on feminist, queer and postcolonial perspectives, the book reveals the critical, constructive and imaginative potential of the creative arts (broadly defined) and popular culture in its complex and diverse representation of, and engagement with, religious life, belief, text, ritual and practice.

    Dedication: Honouring Anne-Marie Korte’s Scholarship and Mentorship

    Adriaan van Klinken, Nella van den Brandt and Mariecke van den Berg

    Introduction: Blasphemy and other Transgressions of Religion, Gender and Sexuality in Arts and Popular Culture

    Nella van den Brandt, Mariecke van den Berg and Adriaan van Klinken

    Part I. Bodies

    1.     ‘Do We Need to Talk about My Uterus?’ Some Thoughts on What Makes for a Blasphemous Menopause Narrative

    Megan Milota 

    2.     In/decent Black Theology in South African Poetry: Reimagining Jesus Christ, Sexuality, Race and HIV

    Adriaan van Klinken

    3.     ‘You Do Not Have to Burn Anymore’: The Witch of Almen as a Grounds for Constructive Feminist Theology

    Mariecke van den Berg 

    Part II. Stories 

    4.   Resisting Dehumanization: A Feminist Reading of Iconoclashes in Ukrainian War Art Heleen Zorgdrager

    5.   Mendacity as Blasphemy: Storytelling and the Making of Religious/LGBTQ+ Jewish Identities

    Orit Avishai

    6.   (Losing) Faith, Intimacy and the Gendered Religion-Race-Secularity Nexus in Stories by Women of Islamic Backgrounds

    Nella van den Brandt

    Part III. Performances

    7.   ‘I’m Just a Vessel’: Sex and the Sacred in South African Cape Flats Theatre

    Megan Robertson

    8.   ‘Your God Made Me This Way’: Religion, Race and Queer Love in the Drama Series Pose Lieke L. Schrijvers

    9.   ‘The Only Orthodox Jewish Woman in British Stand-up Comedy’: Marginality, Relatability and Popular Culture in Rachel Creeger’s Pray It Forward!

    Lucy Spoliar

    10.  ‘This Barbie Can Walk on Water’: Longing for a Feminist Messiah in the Cinema

    Margaretha A. van Es


    Mariecke van den Berg is Endowed Professor of Feminism and Christianity (Catharina Halkes Chair) at Radboud University in Nijmegen and Associate Professor of Religion and Gender in the Faculty of Religion and Theology at VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

    Nella van den Brandt is researcher of religion, gender and race at the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at KU Leuven, Belgium. 

    Adriaan van Klinken is Professor of Religion and African Studies at the University of Leeds, UK, and Extraordinary Professor in the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

    “Anne-Marie Korte’s corpus of work has been a wonderful and welcome addition to the academic world: challenging, provoking, and reorienting normative scholarly categories. Chapters in this volume build on her work to show how categories of gender and sexuality can challenge our understanding of religion by narrowing in on the moments of blasphemy and transgression, places where the categories come unhinged and show us the fluid nature of our social lives.” S. Brent Rodriguez-Plate, Hamilton College, USA

    “This imaginative volume is not only a fitting tribute to Anne-Marie Korte’s contribution to the field but is an exciting collection that tracks the dynamic, fun, and confronting interactions between religion, gender, and sexuality, and creative popular culture. From stand-up comedy, the Barbie movie, menopausal bodies, black HIV queer poetry, LGBTQI+ writing practices, storytelling, and graphic novels, to TV, and performance, the authors challenge understandings of blasphemy and highlight the capacity of art to transform and reimagine constructions of religion, gender, and sexuality.” Dawn Llewellyn, University of Chester, UK

    “Smashed statues of Asherah, menopause, skits and stand-up, Ukranian war art (icons on ammunition boxes), witches, the Israeli docuseries The Holy Closet, ex-Muslim identities, Barbie, black and Latinx ballroom, ‘heretical’ Jesuses in queer black south African poetry…and so much more. Moving between the theatre and the hospital, the museum and ‘the news’, these punchy, astute studies perform and analyse the decomposition and recomposition of the sacred and the profane (and the normative and the inexpressible/ineffable, that which cannot be ‘effed’, as Sam Beckett said). The contributors deftly show how, though blasphemy has been in bed (so to speak) with sex for centuries, the positions keep on changing. A vibrant celebration of the work of Anne-Marie Korte and a stand-alone volume in its own right, bursting with boldness and insights on iconoclash and ironic faith.” Yvonne Sherwood, University of Oslo, Norway