Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices: Anthropological Reflections

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Anna Fedele, Ruy Llera Blanes
Berghahn Books, Sep 30, 2011 - Social Science - 252 pages
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Social scientists and philosophers confronted with religious phenomena have always been challenged to find a proper way to describe the spiritual experiences of the social group they were studying. The influence of the Cartesian dualism of body and mind (or soul) led to a distinction between non-material, spiritual experiences (i.e., related to the soul) and physical, mechanical experiences (i.e., related to the body). However, recent developments in medical science on the one hand and challenges to universalist conceptions of belief and spirituality on the other have resulted in "body" and "soul" losing the reassuring solid contours they had in the past. Yet, in "Western culture," the body–soul duality is alive, not least in academic and media discourses. This volume pursues the ongoing debates and discusses the importance of the body and how it is perceived in contemporary religious faith: what happens when "body" and "soul" are un-separated entities? Is it possible, even for anthropologists and ethnographers, to escape from "natural dualism"? The contributors here present research in novel empirical contexts, the benefits and limits of the old dichotomy are discussed, and new theoretical strategies proposed.


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Trajectories of Walking on the Camino de Santiago
Miracles and Exchange in Apiao Southern Chile
The Italian Tradition of The Festa dei Gigli in Nola
Part II Corporeality Belief and Human Mobility
Missionary Performances and the Experience of the World in the Protestant Church in the Netherlands
The Local and the Global in the Habitus of the Saved Soul
Representations of the Body in Talimbi Witchcraft
Part III New Spiritualities Challenging the BodySoul Divide
Bodily Praxes of Performed Religiosity in Contemporary Greece
The Significance of the Spiritual Dimension in Danish Healing Rituals
The Interpretation of Bodily Experiences in Anthropology and among Mediumistic Healers in Germany
Tone Eurythmy Anthroposophy and Underlying Structures
Notes on Contributors
Subject Index

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About the author (2011)

Anna Fedele explores in her work the intersections of gender and religion, the importance of corporeality in religious contexts, and ritual creativity. She has done extensive fieldwork on alternative pilgrimages to French shrines and is the author of Looking for Mary Magdalene (forthcoming, Oxford University Press). She is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia (CRIA) of the Lisbon University Institute and a research fellow at the Groupe de Sociologie Politique et Morale of the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales of Paris.

Ruy Llera Blanes is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences in the Department of Anthropology. He has specialized in the anthropology of religion, having worked on Pentecostal movements in southern Europe. Currently, he is working with African prophetic movements, discussing issues of leadership, charisma, memory, transmission, knowledge and rationalism.

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