Sexuality and Morality: From Religious Taboos to the Commerce of Intimacy”

Summer Course on Sexuality and Morality


Lisbon, 10‐14 September 2012

Coordinated by: Anna Fedele and Valerio Simoni

The Summer School “Sexuality and Morality: From Religious Taboos to the Commerce of
Intimacy” will be held at the Lisbon University Institute (ISCTE‐IUL), in Lisbon, Portugal, from
the 10th to the 14th of September 2012.

The Summer School welcomes students and researchers, the minimum prerequisite being a BA
in any discipline related to the social sciences or to humanities.

Around 20 participants will be accepted.

Objectives and Rationale

From the very beginnings of anthropology the entanglements of sexuality and morality have
captured the imagination of scholars, challenging their normative assumptions and calling into
question their descriptive and interpretative tools. What can be said of these entanglements at
the beginning of the 21st century, after decades of research on the matter? Are there still
unbroken taboos in the social sciences? How are we to understand sexuality and morality, and
how can these issues be investigated? How are relations between sexuality and morality being
(re)defined? What is the role of religion, politics, and commerce in (re)shaping these relations?
How can anthropology improve our understanding of such complex entanglements?

In recent years, sexuality and morality have received increased attention in the social sciences.
While sexuality has ‘gone global’ and become a highly seductive concept (Moore 2010), its
entanglements with moral issues and anxieties continue to provide important insights on key
societal concerns and transformations. To illuminate such concerns, an emerging body of
scholarship on morality in the social sciences, and more particularly in anthropology, seems
particularly well suited. By giving new impetus and analytical purchase to the notion of
morality, this scholarship helps us rethink sexuality and its wider implications.

Challenging taken for granted assumptions on sexuality and morality, and focusing on their
intersections, the course is designed to move from general theoretical and methodological
considerations to a range of concrete examples dealing with religion, politics and commerce.
Religious taboos, sex work, and same‐sex marriages are among the cases addressed. They will
help participants answer the key questions asked during the course, and provide exemplary
illustrations of how sexuality, morality, and their complex relationships can be rethought in the
light of the latest debates in the field of anthropology.

Without neglecting classical authors such as Margaret Mead and Michel Foucault, the course
has a strong emphasis on contemporary debates in the social sciences. It will review key
perspectives and approaches, offer students a flexible methodological and theoretical
framework, and provide a space for debating a range of case studies and concrete examples
under the guidance of lecturers with first hand ethnographical knowledge on the addressed


The course will consist of 5 lectures (3 hours per day), complemented with 5 seminars (3 hours
per day) that will allow in‐depth discussion of previously shared material.

Combining theory and empirical research this Summer Course offers theoretical as well as
practical tools that will provide the students with a wide spectrum of strategies to address the
intersections of sexuality and morality.

The lectures and seminars will be structured around the following themes:

  1. The anthropology of sexuality and morality: An introduction
  2. Delineating the field: Key debates on sexuality and morality
  3. Sexuality, taboo and religion
  4. Sex work and the commerce of intimacy
  5. Same‐sex marriages and the ‘end’ of gender

The Summer Course includes five three‐hours lectures and five three‐hours seminars. These
will be given by academics with a strong international profile that have both empirical and
theoretical expertise on the subjects treated.

The lectures are structured to proceed from more general theoretical and methodological
considerations (lessons 1 and 2) to a range of concrete examples dealing with religious taboos
(lesson 3), sex work (lesson 4), and same‐sex marriages (lesson 5).

The seminars provide a space for in depth, participatory debate on the topics addressed during
the lectures. They are based on the discussion of key texts sent to participants before the
beginning of the course. The distributed material allows participants to prepare in advance for
the seminars, enabling them also to comply with the assessment’s requirements.

The tutorials are geared at supporting students in the preparation of their final papers. They
offer methodological, theoretical, and practical guidance to help participants design and write
up their research.

The course is taught in English, but discussion may be in English and Portuguese depending on
the participants’ preferences. As for the tutorials and the final essay, Portuguese, English,
Spanish, French, Italian are accepted.

The fee for the course is 150 Euros.


All participants will receive a presence certificate. If participants successfully complete the
assessment they will also receive a diploma of the Summer Course, corresponding to 6 ECTS.

The assessment process will include:

  • Participation in seminars (20%)
  • Final paper (80%)

The final essay can be written in Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Italian.


Anna Fedele is a research fellow of the CRIA‐ Lisbon University Institute and an associated
researcher of the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale of the École des Hautes Études en
Sciences Sociales, Paris. Her research focuses on the intersections of gender and religion and
particularly on issues of corporeality, sexuality and ritual creativity. She has recently been a
visiting scholar at Stanford University and is the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene.

Alternative Pilgrimage and Ritual Creativity at Catholic Shrines in France (Oxford University
Press, 2012, forthcoming). With Ruy Llera Blanes she has edited the volume Encounters of
Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices (Berghahn, 2011).

Valerio Simoni is a research fellow of the CRIA‐ Lisbon University Institute, and a Visiting
Research Associate at the Centre for Tourism & Cultural Change, Leeds Metropolitan
University (UK). His current researches, grounded in ethnographic fieldwork in Cuba, focus on
transformations of difference, emerging forms of intimacy and morality, and controversial
enactments of friendship, love, sex, and commerce in international tourism. He has published
his work in books and anthropology journals including Etnografica, Civilisations, and Tsantsa.
Miguel Vale de Almeida is professor of anthropology at the Lisbon University Institute and his
research focuses on gender, masculinity and sexuality. He is the author of numerous
international articles and of The Hegemonic Male: Masculinity in a Portuguese Town (Berghahn

For administrative enquiries, please contact
For enquiries related to the course content, please contact the Summer School co‐ordinators,
Valerio Simoni or Anna Fedele.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *