In this course, we will problematize this narrative historically, ethnographically, and methodologically. We will explore on the one hand the moral and material worlds of ritual and religious healing in a variety of settings and, on the other, the phenomenologies and politics of encounter between local systems of healing and state-sponsored medicines increasingly intent in the present moment on promoting secular and neoliberal models of global health and civil society. Topics include the intersections of illness, subjectivity, and socio-historical experience; spirit possession; shamanism; indigenous medicine; gender and healing; epistemologies of embodiment; colonialism and affliction; and alternative medicine.
In addition, through a weekly movement lab and because the body is so integral to human ritual, health, and healing, we will use physical explorations, exercises, and improvisations as an additional means of inquiry into concepts significant to the study of ritual and healing. Putting texts, con/texts, and soma in conversation, we will explore questions like: What kinds of mode of knowing are rituals? Why are bodies and embodiment so critical to healing rituals? How do rituals heal and what do they heal? What can rituals contribute to the health of individuals and communities as a political project? And how do rituals talk back to hegemonic systems?