UCLA » College » Social Sciences » History
April 20, 2023
12:00pm to 1:30pm
6275 Bunche Hall

Based on history, dance studies methodologies and critical ethnography, this paper addresses choreographies of invocation and incorporation in the Afro-Brazilian ritual practice of Candomblé through the lens of indigenous feminisms and choreographic analysis. Looking closely at practitioners' use of circular and cyclical movements and spatial pathways at a range of ceremonial sites in Salvador, the capital of Bahia in Northeastern Brazil, I show how Candomblé's aesthetic principles and matri-focal social structures are similarly informed by what I call a feminist poiesis, evidenced in ceremonial performance histories that privilege women’s bodies for mediumship. Intervening in the dominant representation of Candomblé’s spirit embodiments as acts of "possession," I attend to practitioners' idioms of incorporation, including circling with and in the saint –“rodar com o santo” and “rodar no santo,” – to illustrate how ritual processes are actively constructed around intersubjective, movement oriented ontologies as well as cycles of women’s reproductivity and Yoruba-Atlantic understandings of gendered agency. At the same time, processes of incorporation instantiate a non-binary ontology of ritual gender fluidity through which male mediums take on structurally feminized roles.

This presentation concludes by considering how performance studies approaches such as choreographic analysis and dance practice under the tutelage of ritual experts can contribute to processes of intercultural knowledge production. I share my ethnographic dance film, Ogum’s Story, co-created with Candomblé elder Dona Cici, as a model for thinking through circling with/in not only as an ontology of spirit embodiment but also a collaborative, mutually reciprocal research method.

Location: Hybrid
Bunche Hall 6275
Zoom: RSVP
Time: 12:00-1:30 pm