“Bio-looping” and the Psychophysiological in Religious Belief and Practice: Mechanisms of Embodiment in Candomblé Trance and Possession

  • Rebecca Seligman


This chapter explores the processes that mediate the relationship between sociocultural experiences and bodily responses, in the context of religious devotion. Using ethnographic and psychophysiological data from a study of spirit possession (Brazilian Candomblé), I offer a close examination of interactions among enactments of roles and meanings, and bodily states of mediums. In doing so, I offer insight into the mechanisms of what anthropologists call “embodiment.” In particular, I provide a novel and accessible account of how psychophysiology is implicated in embodiment, providing evidence that embodied learning involved in trance/possession is reflected in distinct patterns of autonomic nervous system regulation among mediums. The concept of “bio-looping” is introduced to capture circular and reinforcing processes through which religious meanings and practices shape bodily experience and functioning.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rebecca Seligman
    • 1
  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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