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Encounters of Body and Soul in Contemporary Religious Practices
Edited by Anna Fedele and Ruy Llera Blanes
252 pages, 20 illus., bibliog., index
ISBN 978-0-85745-207-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (September 2011)
eISBN 978-0-85745-208-5 eBook
“The introduction offers a substantial account of recent theory that corrects the ‘dichotomised heritage’ of thinking about body and soul in anthropology...The volume as a whole offers a worthwhile contribution to the growing literature on corporealised religion in the contemporary world. It will be of interest to anthropologists writing on Christianity and the body and on religion and migration, as well as to readers with an interest in the study of religion outside anthropology.” · Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
“[This volume] assembles some fascinating new examples of embodiment of culture, indicating the potential for this paradigm in religion and beyond [that has been lost for centuries]by denigrating and ignoring the body as a serious and intelligent locus of human experience and knowledge.” · Anthropology Review Database
“There is a welcome international feel about the venture—indeed the contributors could hardly represent a broader range of European nationalities. Furthermore, I am impressed with both the relevance and diversity of the papers listed.” · Peter Collins, Durham University
“This is an interesting and timely volume, addressing an important contemporary challenge for the anthropology of religion… The chapters…are ethnographically solid, and are tied nicely into the overall critique of the separation of body and soul.” · Jon Mitchell, University of Sussex
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.
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.