Embodying Transformation. Religious and Gender Transitions in Jewish Autobiography

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This chapter explores the formation of religious and gender scripts in two types of transformation narratives, namely those of religious conversion and transgender transition. These two types of transformation are closely related. Religious conversions almost always include a certain degree of gender transformation, such as adopting rituals that affirm gender identity in new ways. Likewise, transgender transitions are often narrated in ways reminiscent of the traditional Protestant conversion plot (Prosser 1998). I will argue that a dialogue between transgender studies and conversion studies as ‘disciplines of personal transition’ is helpful in understanding the formation, fixedness, and fluidity of the scripts of religion and gender that underlie processes of identity-formation in present-day Western culture. I demonstrate this approach by discussing embodied transition in two transition narratives in the context of Judaism. The analysis is based on two autobiographies that highlight gendered and/or religious transformation in the context of Judaism: Uncovered (2012), in which Leah Lax narrates her conversion to and then departure from Hasidic Judaism, and Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (2012), by Joy Ladin.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTransforming Bodies and Religions
Subtitle of host publicationPowers and Agencies in Europe
EditorsMariecke van den Berg, Lieke L. Schrijvers, Jelle O. Wiering, Anne-Marie Korte
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780367808754
ISBN (Print)9780367407285
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Publication series

NameRoutledge Critical Studies in Religion, Gender and Sexuality


  • Transgender
  • Transformation
  • Autobiography
  • Embodiment
  • Judaism
  • Conversion


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