Affect, trance, healing, and the self

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Assigned readings

Please read the following.

Music and Trance, by Judith Becker (10 pages).

Head, Heart, Odor, and Shadow, by Marina Roseman (20 pages).

Congregational Music in a Pentecostal Church, by Queen Booker (14 pages).

Review of Steven Friedson's book, Dancing Prophets (5 pages).

Dissertation company review

Note: Friedson's book is available in the SUB bookstore. While the book is too long to assign in a course such as this, many of you will find it fascinating, particularly after watching the video. The review provides an overview of the book, as well as an example of how critical reviews are constructed.

Optional: Leaf through Gilbert Rouget's book, Music and Trance (Music Library reserve; also available in the SUB Bookstore). It's become a classic.

Listenings, viewings

We will watch the following in class, mostly Tuesday. If you miss them in class, please try to watch them in the Music Library.

  • Prophet Healers of Northern Malawi (Steven Friedson)
  • Mystic Iran (excerpts)
  • others TBA

Discussion about this topic

I should mention something about Passover. It is actually a Jewish festival that originated with earliest traditions. According to Exodus 23, the festival of Pentecost (fifty) was instituted shortly before the conquest of Canaan. The festival was to be celebrated fifty days after Passover. Pentecost (feast of the first fruits or Sauvot)roughly coincides with the end of the harvest season at which time everyone takes a break, has a party (so to speak), and offers the best of their agricultural wealth to God. Pentecost is an annual festival along with the Passover and the festival of Booths (celebrated to commemorate Israel's wandering in the desert). The coming of the Holy Spirit as depicted in Acts 2 occured during this feast (hence the reason that so many Jews or converts to Judaism were in Jerusalem at the time). Christian liturgies use Passover (Easter) and Pentecost but no equivalent of the third festival is to be found. --CBIEL

Your selected readings

Select a reading relevant to this week's topic, read it, and insert a link and a brief summary here. If you can find links to appropriate audio-visual materials, please include those as well.

Trance and Music in the Hausa Boorii Spirit Possession Cult in Niger - Veit Erman This article references the same article that Becker does – Rouget, La musique et la transe (1980) – but much closer to its publication. (Becker is writing in 1994, Erman in 1982). Veit uses Rouget’s work as a jumping-off point to talk about a specific example of the relationship between music to trance (the Hausa Boorii Spirit Possession Cult in Niger) and to agree with Rouget's thesis that music does not cause trance, although music may support trance. He contends that, from the Hausa example, trance seems to be learned in a culturally-specific way for culturally-specifice purposes. dstark

"Possession" in a Revivalistic Negro Church This is a great article. It takes a more scientific approach at studying trance. The basis of the study was The United House of Prayer for All People was founded in 1920's by C.E. (Sweet Daddy) Grace in the US. According to this particular sect, the founder is God's last earthly prophet (it's a little bit like a cult). It is popular among lower class blacks in USA with customery shouting and singing and a jazz band providing the music. This article gives a kind of 20th century western spin on the other trance material we've gone over.--Bkey 12:15, 8 February 2006 (MST)

"A Historical Interlude: Trance in Europe and the United States" from Judith Becker's Deep Listeners I picked this book up (since it was a good price through amazon) so I thought this would be an appropriate time to start reading it. I plan to continue during reading week, butfor now, this intermediary chaptere caught my attention. In it Becker tracks our Western attitudes towards trance from the early Middle Ages to present day with the purpose of deconstructing the inherent bias against trance by bringing to light the history of the development of those attitudes. Its interesting to note that in Western society trance is gendered, usually feminized and most case histories are about women. Becker also draws out the use of music in relation to trance, which is something others might not consider. I learned about Mesmer and his use of magnetism (leading up to the current understanding of hypnotism) in my Intro to Psych class, but here Becker points out how he used music during his sessions as well. It will be interesting to continue to read it durig the break. -Cari

A Trance Dance with Masks: Research and Performance at the Cuyamungue Institute This article profiles a trance dance that developed (oddly enough) out of doctoral research the author (Goodman) was performing. The research originated with the author's intrique at the fact that those who spoke "in tongues" during his fieldwork, despite their native language, all shared similar acoustic elements (accent, intonation)in regards to the "tongues" they spoke in. After this discovery, Goodman attempted to induce these corresponding trance states in the laboratory (through rhythm) and discovered that it was only when participates observed certain 'trance postures' that their reported visions and physiological experiences became similar. From this, she and some of her students began to develop trance dances from the visions they saw in certain trance postures. This article is interesting because of the way the author is claiming that the dances that were developed are "religious experiences" even though they originated in the contrived and most secular of all settings, the laboratory. This certainly begs the question of what constitutes a "religious experience" that has come up time and time again in our class disccusions.--KellyM 21:23, 8 February 2006 (MST)

Ceremonial Trance Behavior in an African Church: Private Experience and Public Expression, Bennetta Jules-Rosette Rosette studies trance in the African Apostolic Church and its forms or uses as prophecy and healing or exorcisms. She describes the process of invoking trance and translates examples of 'glossolalia' used in some of the situations. Her focus is on the need for both a personal and social context. For example, in some cases, the entire congregation experiences the trance, starting with one person and gradually spreading to everyone else. Bennetta notes that although there are variances in the experiences of trance in this church, there are many common occurrences, one being 'speaking in tongues.'--Lpauls 22:05, 8 February 2006 (MST)

Spirit Possession and Biological Reductionism: A Rejoinder to Kehoe and Giletti This rather short article discusses how authors Kehoe and Giletti try to make spiritual possession a scientific study, blaming it on a Calcium deficiency. The article goes on to describe Spiritual Possession as a relgious believe, and show how by rationalizing away the 'belief' portion of possession, the important part of the practice is lost and forgotten. This article discusses the difference of 'center' and 'periphery', continuing our in-class discussion of Etic and Emic. --Kristen 23:02, 8 February 2006 (MST)

Dance is the Cure: The Arts as Metaphor for Healing in Kelantanese Malay Spirit Exorcisms, Barbara S. Wright Wright's article focuses primarily on the dance (over music) aspect of the Main Peteri exorcisms where trance/dance is used both "as a strategy for healing and a sign of health" for the recovered/ing patient who signals re-entry into regular cultural life by ably joining the dance. Wright notes that that the Kelantan identify with a complex of performing arts where the same musicians might be involved with shadow puppet theatres, dance dramas as well as the Main Peteri exorcisms. Similar to Roseman (1990), Wright recognizes the Kelantanese identification of physical illness with spiritual illness and the inappropriateness of demonstrating strong emotions, yet unlike Roseman, Wright suggests the Main Peteri ceremony primarily "seeks to cure the symptoms by effecting the patient's reintegraion into society" and that the bomoh (curers) send the more severe cases to hospital whereas Roseman makes no such distinction, opting instead to assess social interaction and ritual expression in the locus of indigenous interpretive frameworks.--kreisha (signature only works on Grad lounge computer!--ok changed browser to firefox!)--Kreisha 03:40, 9 February 2006 (MST)

Ritual Possession in a Southern Appalachian Religious Sect This article deals with the author's experiences with the Holiness Serpent Handlers of the Southern US. This is a group with a similar ancestry to the more mainstrean North American Pentacostal Church, but marked by distinct phenomena in their trance behavior, specifically the handling of snakes and fire. The author refers to some of the proposed neuropsychobiological explanations for the trance-like behaviour, but suggests that from his own fieldwork experience, there is no scientific explanation for their "miraculous" behaviour, particularly the fire-handling, which he himself tried with dire consequences. There is also some description of the music used in their services, particularly that associated with the snake and fire-handling. --Jordanv 10:04, 9 February 2006 (MST)

Ceremonial Trance Behavior in an Afrcan Church: Private Experience and Public Expression This article deals with trance as a personal and social act. The author asserts that trance is not a simple phenomenon that can be easily generalized and approaches the topic idiosyncratically (observing individual as well as communal experiences). The "Apostles of John Maranke" church values personal revelation to a very high degree. Prophets customarily lead the service and are valued for their ability to tap into the Holy Spirit' power. Distinction is made between demonic spirits and the Holy Spirit and the ability to hear the Holy Spirit is essential to full membership (often the ability to speak in tongues is key). The author then gives description of speaking in tongues with romanized script. She isolates four classes of speech -- A, holy, understadable speech (Jesus, alleluia etc.); B, utterances belonging to an actual language; C, very loosely connected to a language unknown to the speakers; and D, nonesensical sounds. These tongues are often translated by the end of the service to benefit the whole. -- CBiel

On Hearing Things: Music, the World, and Ourselves by David Burrows It's a relatively simple yet profound reading that articulates some things about sound that are semi-taken-for-granted. The author talks about how sound can transcend boundaries in a way that sight can't. The author confirms that it is the nature of music as beyond ordinary, daily psychology and experience, and as propulsively kinesthetic, that makes it the most common trigger for trance. Through sound we confirm reality and self, as well as situate ourselves in a social context. All that the author purports makes it unobjectionably evident why music is considered a special language for communication with the supernatural and why it is almost universally associated with ritual and healing. I think it's a must read. For some quotes and speculations, click here.--Gloria 17:30, 12 February 2006 (MST)

Spirits and Selves in Northern Sudan: The Cultural Therapeutics of Possession and Trance This article suggests that possession among the Hofryati is a reaction of women against "cultural overdetermination" with respect to gender performance. She also describes possession and other illnesses as manifestations of cosmographic formations regarding spirits. The body is viewed as a microcosm of the villlage, and thus illness is associated with a violation of social code. In an interesting twist, the author posits that possession is one of the few means for women to oppose their subordinate status within Hofryati society.--Andre 20:09, 13 February 2006 (MST)

Veit Erlmann: Trance and Music in the Hausa Boorii Spirit Possession Cult in Niger In reference to the Hausa people of Niger, Erlmann concludes that trance is not necessarily dependent upon music, although music serves as a vehicle in the trance process. He bases this on various authors such as Gilbert Rouget’s “La Musique et la Transe,” Besmer (1975), Neher, etc., as well as his own field experience. The main trance focus is the Boorrii spirit possession cult in Niger (although also practiced among other Hausa people such as those in Nigeria). --Stella 00:19, 16 February 2006 (MST)