Journal Article

The Female Martyr and the Politics of Death: An Examination of the Martyr Discourses of Vibia Perpetua and Wafa Idris

Shannon Dunn

in Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Published on behalf of American Academy of Religion

Volume 78, issue 1, pages 202-225
Published in print March 2010 | ISSN: 0002-7189
Published online February 2010 | e-ISSN: 1477-4585 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jaarel/lfp090
The Female Martyr and the Politics of Death: An Examination of the Martyr Discourses of Vibia Perpetua and Wafa Idris

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This essay examines female martyr narratives from two different traditions and historical periods to show a pattern between gender, politics, and martyrdom. In the stories of Vibia Perpetua and Wafa Idris, martyrdom gives women access to political participation. The narratives crafted about these women and their deaths reflect ambivalence about this participation, for they tend to reinforce strict gender roles for women. An examination of female martyr narratives allows us to compare the reasons that individuals, who write on behalf of communities, use to justify women acting as dealers in death. Martyrs engage in truth-producing actions through their deaths, and thus these actions must be regulated. Authorities in Islam and Christianity limit the reasons one may kill and be killed; the female martyr represents an interesting case as she transgresses boundaries of theological traditions and also reinstates them.

Journal Article.  8992 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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