The unmaking and making of self: Embodied suffering and mind-body healing in Brazilian Candomblé

Rebecca Seligman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Discontinuities in the experience of self are distressing especially when they are unexpected, unsanctioned, and resist attribution. Such discontinuities are often a product of psychosocial and physical suffering. In this article I present a model of self that incorporates bodily experience as a fundamental building block and key source of discontinuity for a sense of self. Analysis of data from adherents of an African-derived spirit possession religion in northeastern Brazil illustrate the ways in which embodied mechanisms, including psychophysiological processes, contribute to the construction, deconstruction, and repair of selves. With case studies from Candomblé, I reveal how subjects use cultural tools to contribute to transformations in both cognitive and bodily processes of incoherence, ameliorate distress, and create positive looping effects that allow selves to recohere. In developing this position I advance understanding of the dynamics of embodied forms of self-healing and contribute to the literatures on Candomblé in particular and possession more generally. [embodiment, spirit possession, healing, self, Brazil]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-320
Number of pages24
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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