J. D. Y. Peel
Marloes Janson, Wale Adebanwi, David Pratten, Ruth Marshall, Stephan Palmié, Amanda Villepastour, and J. D. Y. Peel
Edited by Richard Fardon and Ramon Sarró
The Cosmopolitics of an Apparently Non-religious Practice
Sergio González Varela
Scholars commonly associate the religiosity of capoeira with the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, although some consider capoeira to be exclusively a martial art or even a sport. From the vantage point of the leaders of capoeira Angola groups, their individual power comes from a set of magical attributes that go beyond the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions. In this article, I explore an alternative form of spirituality that is based on the existence of spiritual beings such as the ancestors and the dead mestres (leaders). I argue that these entities emerge only in capoeira performances, affecting ritual action in such a way as to constitute an alternative form of religion that co-exists with Candomblé. By focusing on the effects that these spirits have in the configuration of charismatic personal power, it is possible to delineate cosmological attributes that make capoeira a potential religious practice in its own right.
Anthropological studies of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist worlds continue to be strongly shaped by many of the theoretical presumptions embedded in the analytic models proposed by the earliest generation of scholars. The ability of subsequent theoretical developments in the discipline to influence analyses of spirit possession, Theravada Buddhism, and the relationship between them has been hindered in recent decades by the limited institutionalization of the anthropology of Buddhism as a shared, comparative research agenda. This article re-examines anthropological models of spirit possession in Theravada Buddhist South and Southeast Asia in light of three theoretical developments in anthropology in the final decades of the twentieth century—the critique of culture, the rise of practice theory, and the historical turn. Incorporating these developments more fully will, it is argued, advance a more analytically robust and empirically nuanced framing of both Buddhism and spirit possession as objects of future anthropological study.
An Inquiry into the Initiation Process in a Burmese Organization of Exorcists
Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière
The Manaw Seittokpad congregation, an organization of Burmese exorcists with headquarters in Bago, presents some unique features, such as a rigorous registration procedure during the initiation process. Exorcism is linked to superhuman figures, or weikza, at the center of a religious domain often characterized as a form of Buddhist esotericism. Based on observation of rituals during this congregation’s annual conventions in Bago, the initiation process is analyzed with reference to an anthropological understanding of rites of passage and religious conversion. The article shows how undergoing these rites induces healed patients to enter a specific community formed by the members of the congregation. Furthermore, the acquisition of a new ‘truly’ Buddhist identity is understood as a process equivalent to an ‘internal conversion’. Finally, the contrastive use of ritualism is seen as a way to construct the practice of exorcism in the weikza domain as a specific ‘path’ within the Burmese religious field.
Charisma and Clothes in Tibetan Buddhism Today
Magdalena Maria Turek
Contextualized in discussions around charisma as originally conceived by Max Weber, this article examines the case of Tsültrim Tarchin, a charismatic adept from Eastern Tibet whose everyday dress consists of a specialized garment, a white cotton robe. Earned as a mark of virtuosity in the Tantric tummo practice and worn as a sign of an ascetic lifestyle, this robe functions as a key instrument in Tsültrim Tarchin’s charismatic actions. More than a repository of power and beyond insignia that signify privilege or superiority, the religious garment I consider in this article does not merely channel the routinized charisma of the lineage. It also effectively augments the master’s personal power through the performativity of its symbolism, while its real potency lies in structuring all meanings within the master’s network of influence.
Belief and Social Identity in the Modern World
Christopher R. Cotter, Grace Davie, James A. Beckford, Saliha Chattoo, Mia Lövheim, Manuel A. Vásquez, and Abby Day
Resources and Socio-cosmic Fields in Odisha, India
In anthropology, resources are commonly defined in terms of neo-classical theories of action. In order to widen this anthropological definition, a distinction between two ‘fields’ is introduced in this article: the ‘social field’ and the ‘cosmic field’. It is argued that both fields may be completely separate and express a pluralistic configuration of values, or they may form a more or less monistic field. These ideas are applied to a conflict about bauxite-rich mountains in Odisha, India, in which those involved have quite different concepts of resources. It is argued that politicians and mining companies, as well as their national and international opponents, separate and even oppose the social and the cosmic fields on the basis of conflicting values. In contrast, it is argued that for the local people named Dongria Kond, the mining companies endanger a cultural system of exchange and provisioning that maintains an undifferentiated socio-cosmic field based on the value of life-giving ‘wealth’.
Steven Brooke, Dafne Accoroni, Olga Ulturgasheva, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Eugenia Roussou, Francesco Vacchiano, Jeffrey D. Howison, Susan Greenwood, Yvonne Daniel, Joana Bahia, Gloria Goodwin Raheja, Charles Lincoln Vaughan, Katrien Pype, and Linda van de Kamp
Narratives, Ontologies, Entanglements, and Iconoclasms
Sondra L. Hausner, Simon Coleman, and Ruy Llera Blanes
Belief and Disbelief of Mystical Forces, Perilous Conditions, and the Opacity of Being
This article explores mystical belief and disbelief in Jeanne Favret-Saada’s ethnography of Bocage witchcraft in relation to the ontological turn in anthropology. The ethnographic archive provides numerous examples in which natives display seemingly contradictory practices of belief and disbelief when it comes to mystical forces. A common way by which anthropologists deal with such contradictions is to attempt to explicate their social function and cultural significance. In doing so, they perceive belief and disbelief to be cognitive states of clarity. Favret-Saada differs in her approach since she apprehends mystical belief and disbelief to be ambivalent and connected and, as I argue, portrays it as being caught in a perilous arrangement of death. In order to convey these points, I compare her ethnographic work to that of E. E. Evans-Pritchard and Rane Willerslev. The article goes on to analyze Favret-Saada’s minimal ontology of the opaque subject and how it can inform ontological anthropology.