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Unseeing the Body with Bodies on the Move: An Epistemology for Bodies through Certeau and Holy Week Processions

Jodi L. A. Belcher

The twentieth-century philosophical and theological turn to the body challenged modern Western conceptions of bodies as closed, independent entities, but it has not halted the objectifying epistemology that produces this understanding of bodies. To reform the perceptual lens that renders bodies into objects, this article develops an alternative epistemology grounded in participatory interaction in lived space. I bring Michel de Certeau’s discussion of the practice of walking the city into conversation with my ethnographic study of Lent and Easter at an Episcopal church in the American South. I argue that Certeau’s construal of walking as a way of unseeing the city from a voyeur’s perspective also generates a way of unseeing the body as a closed, independent object. I apply Certeau’s work to my case study of Holy Week processions to show that an epistemology of unseeing enables a perception of bodies as journeys to emerge.

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