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Research Centre for Religious Studies Research Centres Institute of Indian Studies Research

Possession, Healing Rituals and Performativity

Researchers: Elena Mucciarelli, Cezary Galewicz, University of Cracow
Possession, Healing Rituals and Performativity

South India, with its history of religious coexistence, offers a fascinating non-canonical perspective on healing rituals, possession, and, on a broader level, on the concept of “magic”. Although this term is ridden with connotations from colonial period, it can be thought of as an initial working word that has to be unpacked and specified by localized research. As it is, “magic” allows us to reflect on human activities that are meant to construct but also modify and destroy regimes of reality in order to deal with the unexpected, the unwanted. In order for us to be able to manage the danger that is built in human life.

The research develops along two interrelated and intertwined studies that investigate domestic rituals and possession rites as modes of dealing with evil, impurity and moments of crisis. The project explores the performative nature of these religious institutions combining textual sources and ethnographic work. Both studies relate to Kerala, South India, but focus on two different communities at the extreme poles of the social stratification axis typical of the region. Through a historical analysis of the modalities of their interaction, the research aims to offer an alternative view on the connected history of the two institutions. Methodologically, the project uses the perspectives of new materialism and cultural techniques to account for non-canonical concept of the magic. Moreover, the work of documentation of the local oral traditions and practices will contribute to the preservation of fundamental sources for understanding the socio-religious dialogue in the region. Studying South India gives voice to communities that have been marginalized in western scholarship and its focus on the core areas of different religions and their western contexts.

Last modified:03 January 2022 11.03 a.m.