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Accepted Paper:

Sema as a space of healing and transformation  
Anna Zadrożna (Institute of Anthropology, University of Gdańsk)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the transformative effect of "ritual whirling" (Sema) and examines the idea of becoming a better human and paths leading to it.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the transformative effect of Sema, a Mevlevi Sufi ritual often referred to as a "whirling" or a "ritual dance". I explore embodiment as a way of learning about/communicating with oneself/Higher Self/God/other entities, and searching for healing, wisdom, guidance or truth. As I participated in Sema privately, I also approached some of its aspects as anthropologist (with a clear intention of conducting research).

In the context of my research, the sema has a broader meaning and concerns other activities organized around Sema (whirling), including: sohbet (conversations), zikir (chanting), cooking and cleaning together, and socializing around the event. Instead of being a "religious performance", it is regarded as a space for healing, learning and transformation that come from the character of the place, the ritual and other activities, and universality of human nature. I reflect on the Sema as a space in terms of its affectivity, materiality, and semiotics, and I look deeper into the ways in which embodiment and bodily experience become integral to the transformative effect of the Sema. Focusing of the idea of becoming a better human, I ask the following questions: what does it mean in this particular context? What values are regarded "better", why, and what paths lead to acquiring them?

Panel P091a
Body/mind as space(s) of struggle and experiment: explorations, expansions and experience(s) of human limits
  Session 1 Friday 24 July, 2020, -