Abstract

Abstract:

This essay examines biblical and early modern discourses of Christian universalism promising the incorporation of racialized and gender-nonconforming believers. One such figure is the eunuch. In biblical and premodern thought, eunuchs would have brought together gender nonconformity and racialized difference as figures in Western Christian writing for the miraculous potential of divine grace. The article emphatically takes the eunuch not as an ancestor of the modern nonbinary or transgender person, but rather as a historically and geographically specific instance of the violent erasure that occurs when racialized and gender-nonconforming persons are treated as figures of the particularity that Christian universalism (or neoliberal inclusivity) transcends. The valorization of the fair male body is especially pronounced in early modern devotional lyrics, which draw upon biblical depictions of transdevotion—the ecstatic transcendence of the black and gender-nonconforming body to achieve a white and masculine soul—to conceptualize the experiences of faith, penitence, and salvation. This kind of poetry reveals the imbrications of racial and gender nonconformity that provide the parameters of universalist discourses past and present.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1553-3786
Print ISSN
1531-0485
Pages
pp. 94-115
Launched on MUSE
2020-09-24
Open Access
No
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