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Influence of technology

The Body in Religion is an excellent textbook for many reasons. Each chapter follows a similar framework, beginning with a general discussion of the topic at hand, followed by a contextualized and historicized analysis of its manifestation in multiple religious traditions, then concluding with a few contemporary examples that demonstrate the enduring significance of the issues in the modern world, a set of discussion questions, and a glossary. Chapter 4, for instance, which focuses on the role of the body in religious ritual, starts with a general discussion of the various bodily components involved in ritual, such as posture, gesture, and movement. It then proceeds with a brief introduction of key methodologies and theories, such as Pierre Bourdieu’s notion of the habitus (56). This is followed by a set of key examples from different religious traditions, such as the Christian ritual of the Eucharist, the Jewish Sabbath prayers, and the Hindu pujaand devotional bhakti practices. Greenberg finishes the chapter with a survey of contemporary trends and practices, such as the emergence of women’s rituals in Neo-Paganism and the impact of the rise of internet culture, social media, and smartphone apps on religious ritual (77). The latter is particularly important, as it allows the instructor to connect the topic of the chapter to the lives, interests, and concerns of students. Greenberg’s analysis of mindfulness practices (119-22), transgender issues (151-56), and same-sex marriage (176-79) are especially likely to promote lively class discussions. 

Yet another of the book’s strengths lies in its use of images. While the majority of The Body in Religionis devoted to textual analysis, this is supplemented by visual depictions of human bodies engaged in religious activity. Chapter 2, which studies the representation of the divine in art, is a good example of this practice in action, as it analyzes images of the bodies of gods, saints, and religious practitioners in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, thus offering a much richer and more concrete understanding of the portrayal of bodies in religion. This is further reinforced by the book’s ancillary website. It includes supplementary online resources, such as suggestions for further reading, additional discussion questions, relevant websites, newspaper articles and videos, and optional classroom activities. It also includes a detailed and well-designed sample syllabus for an undergraduate course on the body in religion.