Drawing on ethnographic research in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, this article proposes the concept of the 'intimate event' as a heuristic device in the cross-cultural study of kinship and relatedness. This theoretical construct refers to the retrospective recognition of affective transactions as meaningfully intimate, that recognition being an event which in Maranhão compels ethical reflection. Intimacy can be imagined as an aesthetic of practice that indicates when something simply feels right, and which then frames the correctness of both moral conformity and transgression in affective terms.
The Correctness of Affective Transactions in Northeast Brazil
The Case of Neo-Pentecostal Exorcism in Brazil
Seeking to uproot evil from people’s life, neo-Pentecostal exorcists in Brazil separate between internal and external bodily surfaces and then ‘close’ the victim’s entire body to protect against further malignant intrusion. Based on fieldwork in Brazil and the analysis of expulsion videos online, I demonstrate that exorcists self-consciously use topological imaginaries of connectedness and disjunction to generate a reality in which demons and humans occupy mutually exclusive ontological domains. I argue that the moral transformation that these rituals encourage is thus contingent on the successful disentanglement of bodily surfaces, which distinguishes inside from outside and humans from demons. I use the term ‘moral topology’ to analyze this process and call for further cross-cultural attention to the ethnographic vitality of topological imaginaries in the making of cosmological boundaries.