“Though they struggled twenty centuries ago, the ancient assemblies who sparked Paul's letters teach us how to live with and move beyond disgust, trauma, and loss, toward solidarity. ”
Paul’s letters elicit strong feelings, both in the past and in the present. In the present-day context these letters are affectively loaded sites, given the large roles they have played in disputes over gender and sexuality, within churches and the broader American public. In the first century they were directed toward a series of assembly communities around the Mediterranean, assemblies that are cast as disgusting and included many people who experienced trauma and loss. These letters recurrently recirculate ancient stereotypes of gender, sexual, and ethnoracial difference, even as many of the people in these assemblies were targeted by these stereotypes.
This cross-disciplinary scholarly project implements key insights from the recent turn to affect within cultural studies to examine the place and movement of the bodies in these networks. To understand these assemblies, this project traces how they negotiated “negative” affects (disgust, trauma, and loss) and maintained modes of solidarity in and through these conditions. The focus on these aching bodies demonstrates the necessity of grappling with affects in order to foster authentic relationships to each other, by being authentic about the pasts (both proximate and more distant) that haunt us in our bodies and our souls. A project that specifically addresses the haunting impacts of our heritage not only rewrites the histories of these assemblies in innovative ways as the movement of bodies in networks, but also offers a contemporary resource for acknowledging the past as a mode of reflection for and intervention within a present shaped by a similarly fraught affective terrain.