Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances - Sarah M. Pike

Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances - Sarah M. Pike

6. Dances of Self-development as a Resource for Participatory Democracy

Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances - Sarah M. Pike

Michael Houseman [+-]
Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes
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Michael Houseman, anthropologist, is a Directeur d’études (chair of African religions) at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, PSL Research University (France). He has undertaken field research among the Beti of Southern Cameroon, in Benin, in French Guyana and in France. He has published extensively on kinship and social organization, and on initiation and ritual performance. His current areas of interest include ceremonial dance and emergent forms of ritual practice. His publications include Naven or the Other Self. A Relational Approach to Ritual Action (Brill, 1998, with C. Severi) and Le rouge est le noir. Essais sur le ritual (Presses Universitaires le Mirail, 2012).
Marie Mazzella di Bosco [+-]
Paris Nanterre University (PhD candidate)
Marie Mazzella di Bosco is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology in the Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative (Paris Nanterre University). Her doctoral research focuses on mindful, free-form dances such as 5 Rhythms, Movement Medicine and Open Floor, and explores how these practices allow for a particular ritual production of participants’ individual selves. For her master’s degree she worked on Flamenco dance and the role of emotions in its cross-cultural transmission.


Based on participatory fieldwork undertaken mostly in France, this article explores the political dimensions of collective dance practices pursued in the spirit of self-discovery and personal transformation (5 Rhythms, Movement Medicine, Biodanza, etc.). These activities are not instances of political activism in and of themselves, nor are they organized according to democratic principles. However, they call into play moral and social values that are consonant with the principles that democratically inspired political actions seek to put into effect. In this respect, they are not reducible to the consumption of a resource for individual self-fulfilment. We argue that like many other contemporary “alternative” or “spiritual” initiatives, these activities involve participants in extra-ordinary yet lived-through situations that enact a special mode of sociability, many aspects of which are immediately relevant to the functioning of social movements based on participatory democratic principles. By affording participants with ritual experiences in which individual autonomy and collective solidarity are made interdependent, these practices can be a resource for democratic commitment in the political sphere.

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Houseman, Michael; Mazzella di Bosco, Marie. 6. Dances of Self-development as a Resource for Participatory Democracy. Ritual and Democracy - Protests, Publics and Performances. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 115-138 Sep 2020. ISBN 9781781799758. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=39693. Date accessed: 21 Jul 2024 doi: 10.1558/equinox.39693. Sep 2020

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