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Embodiment and performance: Our Lady Aparecida and the werewolf woman, Brazil

Grant number: 18/19609-9
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research
Effective date (Start): January 31, 2019
Effective date (End): July 30, 2019
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Theory of Anthropology
Principal researcher:John Cowart Dawsey
Grantee:John Cowart Dawsey
Host: Diana Taylor
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: New York University, United States  

Abstract

This proposal results from astonishment produced during field work in Aparecida do Norte, home of Brazil's patron saint, as devotees originating from the Garden of Flowers (or "Devils' Hole") - located on the outskirts of a city in the interior of the State of São Paulo - followed a course leading from the new basilica to the amusement park. After visiting the image of Our Lady, devotees encountered the spectacles of the werewolf woman, the snake woman, and the gorilla woman. Upon their return to the Garden of Flowers, devotees spoke with reverence and awe about their visit to the patron saint. However, they also demonstrated much joy and emotion regarding their encounter with the werewolf woman, who they had seen. Field diary entries call attention. Similarities between the spectacle of the werewolf woman and descriptions given by women in the Garden of Flowers of their own experiences of sudden mutations deserve special notice. In the configuration of a gesture, of women "crazy with rage", turning into animals and confronting "the men" or forces which endanger their families and matrifocal networks, a state of bodily innervation is produced. What is the relation between embodied repertoires which are manifested in Aparecida (in the basilica and amusement park) and those which irrupt in the astounding everyday life of the Garden of Flowers? Narratives concerning the body of Our Lady also call attention. The image is broken. Its color is dark clay. The saint is a woman. The purpose of this project is to analyze field material produced in Aparecida and in the Garden of Flowers on the basis of Diana Taylor's groundbreaking studies on embodied performances.The objectives of the project may be stated as follows: 1) investigate the formation of embodied repertoires of devotees of Aparecida in three locations: a) in the new basilica, where the saint is found; b) in the amusement park, where the spectacles of the werewolf woman, snake woman, and gorilla woman occur; and c) in the Garden of Flowers (or "Devils' Hole") where devotees with whom I have been carrying out ethnographical research reside; 2) discuss processes of formation of embodied repertoires of devotees from the Garden of Flowers in respect to experiences involving ritual (basilica) and play (amusement park) in Aparecida; 3) explore the hypothesis that elements of embodied repertoires which are associated, according to a process of binary classification in Aparecida, with sacred and ritual places (basilicas, etc.) or profane and playful places (amusement park), are unified in tension-charged embodied repertoires of women and men in the Garden of Flowers; 4) clarify the ways in which embodied performances occurring in places of ritual (basilicas, etc.) and play (amusement park) in Aparecida affect and are affected by everyday performances (or social dramas) in the Garden of Flowers; 5) raise and analyze the question of Our Lady's body, in view of three widely known narratives: a) in the year of her first apparition, in 1717, fishermen pulled from the bottom of the river a body without a head, and, then, a head without a body; b) the image of the saint is the color of dark clay; and c) the saint is a woman. The notion of montage may be mobilized for purposes of analysis. An image of a saint is juxtaposed to that of a werewolf woman. Such as can be seen in the montages of Eisenstein, the planes collide. And, yet, they are fused. From the fusion of two factors in conflict an image or tension-charged montage is created: sacred and profane, basilica and amusement park, saint and werewolf woman. In the Garden of Flowers mothers and women who are devotees of Our Lady go crazy with rage.The idea of montage may also be useful for analysis of the broken image of Our Lady. Fishermen found a headless body and, then, a bodiless head. In the basilica one gazes at the face of the Holy Mother. In the amusement park, one observes a ghastly lower body and hears a growl.

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Scientific publications
(References retrieved automatically from Web of Science and SciELO through information on FAPESP grants and their corresponding numbers as mentioned in the publications by the authors)
JOHN C. DAWSEY; CLAUDIA DA SILVA SANTANA. Brincando de bonecos: um ensaio benjaminiano sobre mimesis. Horiz. antropol., v. 26, n. 56, p. 29-56, Abr. 2020.

Please report errors in scientific publications list by writing to: cdi@fapesp.br.