WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn26 )

Health and more-than-human entanglements in African and Afro-diasporic religions

Organizers

    Daniela Calvo

    Italy

    Kyoto University (Japan)

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Francesca Bassi

    Italy

    Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia (Brazil)

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Ran Muratsu

    Japan

    Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (Japan)

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Anthropology of Pandemics

IUAES Affiliation: Religion

Keywords:

African religions, Afro-diasporic religions, health, more-than-human relations; healing rituals.

Abstract:

The aim of this panel is to bring together ethnographies, as well as theoretical and methodological reflections on the diverse ways in which more-than-human beings entangle in the process of health and illness, in the framework of African and Afro-diasporic religions. Anthropology started to blur the borders between the biological and the social, the human and the non-human, and to consider health in a posthuman perspective, examining how more-than-human beings – including humans and other beings, considered as pertaining to the “natural realm” like animals, plants, minerals, forests, the earth etc.; those of the “technological realm” like objects, artifacts, medical instruments etc., and those of the “spiritual realm” like spirits, ancestors, divinities and forces – entwine and intermingle with one another, and participate in the process of health and illness. Health (intended in a broad sense, including biopsychosocial, ecological, economic and spiritual aspects, and related to participation with forces and energies) is impacted by more-than-human relations in different ways. Henceforth, we can consider human health to be enmeshed in multiple and complex relations with more-than-human beings, and the various ways in which more-than-human beings participate in healing rituals and therapeutic spaces (Chams & Dansac 2022). In addition, ecological issues, the health of the earth, waters, forests, animals, plants and ecosystems (Gottieb 2009), and interspecies relations are addressed concurrently. Since the ontologies of African and Afro-diasporic religions suggest interconnectivity, interdependence, and mutual in-becomings among more-than-human beings, they provide an intriguing framework for thinking about health and more-than-human entanglements. In fact, humans, and, more generally, more-than-human beings, have been analysed through dimensions like relationality (Bastide 1993), incompleteness and conviviality (Nyamnjoh 2017), translation, affect, mutual in-becomings and participation in the flows of life and materials (Calvo 2022), porosity of ontological borders, transformations and hybridizations. Based on the aforementioned perspectives, we propose to examine how the processes of health and illness are conceived, lived and enacted in African and Afro-diasporic religions, taking into account the multiple entanglements among more-than-human beings, as well as the ways in which more-than-human beings participate in healing rituals and other practices (taboos, daily behaviours, food, personal hygiene, prayers etc.) meant to preserve or restore (individual and collective) health, and in facing health crises. Thus, this panel proposes to explore how, within African and Afro-diasporic religions, more-than-human beings participate in the production of the body, health, and healing; how more-than-human entanglements emerge in the experiences of health, illness, and healing rituals; which cosmopolitics and ontologies emerge in therapeutic spaces; which practices are enacted regarding animals’, plants’, the earth’s and other beings’ health; how religious healing spaces interact with other medical systems; what “healths” and cosmopolitics emerge from fieldworks conducted amid ecological disasters, political-economic instability, wars and health crises, and related issues.