An Author Meets Her Critics

Around "The Mind Possessed: The Cognition of Spirit Possession in an Afro-Brazilian Religious Tradition" by Emma Cohen

in Religion and Society
Author:
Diana Espirito Santo University of Lisbon gimmefish@yahoo.com

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Arnaud Halloy University of Nice halloy@unice.fr

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Pierre Liénard University of Nevada pierre.lienard@unlv.edu

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Emma Cohen Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics emma_cohen@eva.mpg.de

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“Why spirits?” asks Emma Cohen (97)—why are concepts of intentional and agentive supernatural beings such as spirits and gods so prevalent cross-culturally? What makes them appealing, contagious, and lasting? And what kinds of assumptions about the world and its workings do they entail and do they generate? In The Mind Possessed, Cohen offers us some answers; to some degree by appealing to her ethnography of the Afro-Brazilian practice of batuque in the Amazon-bordering town of Belém, but mostly by subordinating particularistic concerns to what she considers more general ‘scientific’ ones. However, it may be the questions, rather than the answers, that merit revising.

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