Boredom, rhythm, and the temporality of ritual: recurring Fieldwork in the Brazilian Candomble

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Author: Inger Sjorslev
Date: Spring 2013
From: Social Analysis(Vol. 57, Issue 1)
Publisher: Berghahn Books, Inc.
Document Type: Report
Length: 7,855 words
Lexile Measure: 1420L

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Abstract: Setting out from fieldwork experiences in the ritual of the Brazilian Candomble, this article aims to understand temporality in different ways. The significance of 'unfocused presence' in the field is discussed by way of the concept of 'deep hanging out'. The boredom experienced by the fieldworker is analyzed in relation to sentiments expressed by the people involved in ritual and the fieldworker's changing emotions over time, as previous experiences influence how time spent waiting is perceived. In ritual as well as in the interaction between fieldworker and the people in the field, temporality is deeply related to sociality and the aesthetics of social rhythm. It is concluded that the fieldworker is drawn into the time-geography of the field in a joint choreography of social interaction.

Keywords: aesthetic forms, boredom, deep hanging out, performance, rituals, social rhythm, temporality, unfocused presence

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The ideas about time and the field presented in the following pages are inspired by ritual as the theme of my fieldwork, but also by the fact that I have been returning to the same fieldwork location again and again over a period of 30 years. When I first started, I had never imagined that this would happen, much less planned it. On the contrary, on many occasions I have been sure that this visit would be the last. I have taken the invitation to think about temporality and the field as an incentive to look into the meaning of this long-term relationship with the field. Ritual and recurring field visits will be the starting point for reflections on temporality, social rhythm, and the analytical value of boredom, 'deep hanging out', and other temporal perspectives in the course of fieldwork.

The field I am referring to is a small Brazilian town in the state of Bahia. The African-Brazilian syncretistic religion Candomble builds on a strong tradition and a long history, and it is flourishing in Bahia today, providing both continuity and revival of African traditions brought to Brazil with the slaves. The initial objective of my fieldwork was ritual possession with a focus on the predominance of women in Candomble. I first arrived in Bahia in late 1979, and after some time I became an initiate of a ritual sisterhood (Sjorslev 1995). Although I have often had to skip participation in the yearly rituals, I have kept going back time and again for the ritual events in my particular terreiro (Candomble house). In 2004, I took part in an axexe, a memorial funeral for the spirit of my mae-de-santo Mother Lira, who died in 1997 (Sjorslev 2006). In 2008, I was there in August at the time of the public procession of the Boa Morte, the Sisterhood of the Good Death. On the same occasion I made a sacrificial contribution to the rituals in the Candomble house that I belong to, which consists of a group of women who are not in the Sisterhood. The people of this house expect me to do so from time to time. They know...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A337287369