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The senses are used within New Testament texts as instruments of knowledge and power and thus constitute important mediators of cultural knowledge and experience. Likewise, those instances where sensory faculty is perceived to be "disabled" in some way also become key sites for ideological commentary and critique. However, often biblical scholarship, itself "disabled" by eye-centric and textocentric "norms," has read sensory-disabled characters as nothing more than inert sites of healing; their agency, including their alternative sensory modes of communication and resistance to oppression, remain largely unaddressed.
In response, Louise J. Lawrence seeks to initiate a variety of interdisciplinary dialogues with disability studies and sensory anthropology in a quest to refigure characters with sensory disabilities featured in the gospels and provide alternative interpretations of their conditions and social interactions. In each instance the identity of those stigmatised as "other" (according to particular physiological, social and cultural "norms") are recovered by exploring ethnographic accounts which document the stories of those experiencing similar rejection on account of perceived sensory "difference" in diverse cross-cultural settings. Through this process these "disabled" characters are recast as individuals capable of employing certain strategies which destabilize the stigma imposed upon them and tactical performers who can subversively achieve their social goals.
Louise J. Lawrence is Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies at the University of Exeter.
"This book is a very important contribution to what can be called sensory criticism or corporeal criticism in biblical studies that focuses on the embodied human experience in biblical texts. This book should be read by anyone interested in how sense is both expressed and constructed by biblical authors and by biblical scholars."-- Review of Biblical Literature
"Lawrence s book is an important contribution to biblical scholarship because it exposes the way in which we have traditionally read and interpreted these texts that privilege able-bodied people over others. Challenging readers to see sensory-disabled characters in a new light, Lawrence successfully brings the agency and resistance of these marginalized groups to the front and center into biblical studies. This book is an important contribution to the field of biblical interpretation because it allows us to reimagine and re-read disabled characters through a more humane and a justice-oriented lens, all the while heightening our own sensory perceptions and dismantling our own prejudices towards differently abled bodies."--Biblical Interpretation