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Accepted Contribution:

Where have all the hormones gone? Re-searching for T in an orthodox Jewish women’s Yeshiva  
Shira Schwartz (Northwestern University)

Short abstract:

This paper triangulates testosterone, gendersex, and religious education by exploring amenorrhea and disordered eating among Orthodox Jewish women's yeshiva students. Linking my hormonal body with theirs, I argue that hormonal ethnography can show how normative and non-normative bodies are related.

Long abstract:

The paper explores what happens to the gendersexed bodies of Orthodox Jewish women’s yeshiva students who participate in a religious educational practice of residential Torah study that for thousands of years has produced Jewish masculinity. Highlighting amenorrhea and disordered eating within these institutions, the paper traces my ethnographic search for hormones and bodies out-of-bounds, in a religious environment that is focused on textual knowledge and conformity. Starting with my own testosterone, I follow this hormone across time to other related bodies that participate in this practice some fifteen years later to explore the relationship between yeshiva, amenorrhea, gendersex and T. Linking my re-search with students' own attempts to decipher their changing hormonal bodies, I highlight the intersecting forms of religious and medical embodiment and authority that we engage in negotiating our shifting bodily states and their gendersexed meanings. While I start with testosterone, I follow as T is rerouted to cortisol (stress) by authority figures, and how this deferral redirects students’ attention away from their bodies. Along the way, I highlight my own hormonal re-routings in my search to understand the hormonal impact of yeshiva on bodies like mine. Drawing on feminist science studies, queer/trans situated biologies and auto/insider ethnography, I ask what is at stake with “finding” or not finding hormones for different interlocutors of my research: students, their communities, physicians and me. This paper considers how a hormonal ethnography can help us understand the impact of religion on gendersex, linking non-normative and normative bodies to demonstrate their relatedness.

Combined Format Open Panel P271
Making and doing hormonal theory
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -