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RELS309 The Body in Asian Religions

An examination of some of the ways in which body, gender and sexuality are constructed and practiced in cultures dominated by Hindu and Buddhist ideals.

This paper explores the confluence of Asian religious and academic concerns with the body through consideration of technologies of the body (such as asceticism, self-mortification, celibacy, sexual control, exercise, and bodily care), idealised representations of the body (as heroic or divine), and the ambivalent role of the body as both a hindrance and a vehicle for spiritual progress.

In this paper, we will also critically examine how notions of gender, morality and social belonging are mediated in and through the body, connecting such conceptual issues to our own contemporary context and lived experiences.

Paper title The Body in Asian Religions
Paper code RELS309
Subject Religious Studies
EFTS 0.15
Points 18 points
Teaching period(s) Semester 2 (Distance learning)
Semester 2 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $955.05
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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18 200-level RELS or RELX points
RELS 209, RELX 209, RELX 309
Schedule C
Arts and Music, Theology
(i) May not be credited together with RELS233 or RELS333 passed in 2005. (ii) Students who have not passed the normal prerequisite may be admitted with approval from the Head of Department.

Dr Lina Verchery

Teaching staff

Dr Lina Verchery

Paper Structure

The paper is divided into six modules:

  • What is the Body? Theoretical Contours and Framing Questions;
  • The Body: Friend or Foe, Hindrance or Help?;
  • Self-mortification and the Power of Pain;
  • Celibacy and Sexual Power;
  • Bodily Virtuosity;
  • Everyday Embodiments and Bodily Boundaries.


  • Weekly reflections - 20%
  • Essay 1 - 20%
  • Essay 2 (2,000 words) - 25%
  • Exam (3 hours) - 35%
Teaching Arrangements

The Distance Learning offering of this paper is taught remotely.

On campus: Two 1-hour lectures per week
Distance: Online discussion

A coursebook containing lecture notes and readings is available for this paper. Printed copies will be available through the printshop. The coursebook is also available as a PDF through Blackboard.
Course outline
View a sample course outline for RELS 309
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Information literacy.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete the paper will be able to demonstrate

  • A sound factual knowledge of issues relating to gender, sexuality, asceticism and bodily care in a variety of Asian religious traditions;
  • An appreciation for how the comparative study of religion can highlight similarites between religious traditions in different times and places, without losing sight of differences and particularities that reflect unique historical, cultural and geographic contexts;
  • A nuanced understanding of the body as a locus of tension between the socially-constructed and the biologically-given, and of the various ways the body functions as a mediator between the individual and the collective.

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Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system

Semester 2

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
A1 Tuesday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41
Thursday 13:00-13:50 28-34, 36-41