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Accepted Paper:

Snakes and ladders: renegotiating bodily experience and hierarchy in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé  

Author:

Giovanna Capponi (University of Roehampton)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing upon personal and comparative ethnographic data in the context of Afro;Brazilian Candomblé, this paper will discuss the challenges and dynamics of renegotiating one's bodily involvement and positioning through and with different ontological worlds.

Paper long abstract:

The bodily experience is a central feature of Afro-Brazilian religions, and it exposes the human body during all ritual phases, from the first stages of the initiation to trance possession. Personalities, intellectuals, and also anthropologists have often been included in Candomblé's rigid social structures as legitimate initiates. However, in many notable examples in history, anthropologists were initiated as "não-rodantes," people with a higher position in the hierarchy who do not experience trance possession and whose initiation is shorter and less invasive. These conditions were often negotiated with religious authorities as a win-win situation: "não-rodantes," anthropologists could add prestige to the Candomblé houses, and have access to information while also maintaining the comfort and status of their position within both the religious and the academic environment.

However, in other cases, these engagements are not set in motion by humans, but by entities and spirits themselves who participate and interact with humans through a code of symbolic actions or involving the ethnographer's bodily experience, like through unexpected trance possession. Drawing upon personal and comparative ethnographic data, this paper will discuss the challenges and dynamics of renegotiating one's bodily involvement and positioning through and with different ontological worlds. Moreover, it will argue how the researcher's bodily experience is a primary source of ethnographic data not only because of his/her ability to internalize social values but also as a central place of renegotiation of one's power, status, and inclusion within a social group.

Panel P115a
Other Worlds, Other Bodies?: Ethnography, Experience and Epistemological Embodiment