Accepted Paper:

has pdf download Learning possession in the Xangô cult of Recife (Brazil): outline of an emotional theory  

Author:

Arnaud Halloy (University of Nice Sophia Antipolis)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on my ethnographic research in the Xangô cult of Recife (Brazil), my main purpose is to give a precise description of possession and its relations to emotion and cognition.

Paper long abstract:

Drawing on my ethnographic research in the Xangô cult of Recife (Brazil), I will first suggest a methodological approach of possession trance. Then I will argue for a theoretical hypothesis about spirit possession.

A first observation of possession trance in the Xangô cult points out that it is far from being as monolithic as numerous studies of possession are suggesting. My ethnography takes into account possession vocabulary, participants discourse about possession and numerous descriptions of possession episodes, including learning possession episodes. This data clearly shows that possession should be thought as a multiplicity of subjective states characterized by a series of somatic changes (sensations, perceptions, emotions) and different degrees of consciousness.

What suggests this ethnographic account is that anthropological studies of possession should be resolutely pragmatic. In other words, they should focus on the learning conditions of spirit possession but also on its specific interactional context (involving persons, artefacts, animals). My main purpose is to give a precise description of possession and its complex relations to emotion and cognition.

A theoretical hypothesis can be put forward from our ethnographic data. Possession, as I will suggest, might be conceptualized as a special kind of emotional learning process. From this point of view, recent researches in psychology and neuropsychology of emotions can be very useful for a better understanding of that phenomenon. In our theoretical perspective, possession might learn something from emotions… But possession can also teach us something about them.

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Rethinking spirit possession