Home/Main Menu     Site Map

Record Type: Review   ID: 184

Samba in the Night: Spiritism in Brazil

Hess, David J.

 No one describes Hess better than Hess! He calls this "an ethnography told in the form of a personal narrative" (p. xiii). He singles out two vying voices: "The ‘eye’ wants to describe a religious movement and explain its complexities, whereas the ‘I’ wants to tell a story about a journey to the self" (p. xiii). but there are even more voices of David Hess: the learner, the scholar, the situated observer, the theorist, the high quality prose writer. I read a new David Hess book the way some read a new mystery by their favorite author. I know I am going to enjoy it all, and be moved, inspired, and educated. To quote Hess again: "I have set up Samba in the Night so that, like a prism, it can be viewed from different perspectives or read on different levels depending on one’s interests and familiarity with the topic. Perhaps the most obvious ‘way in’ is to see the book as a cultural anthropologist’s interpretation of one type of religion, in urban Brazil during the 1980s. Anthropologists call descriptive and interpretive accounts ‘ethnography,’ which means literally ‘writing about a people.’ I present my ethnography in the form of a personal journey through the complex world of spirit mediums (chanelers), poltergeists, ‘psychic surgery,’ sorcery, legal battles, scientific debates, and other aspects associated with spirits and spiritism in Brazil. At the same time I show what it is like to do anthropological fieldwork, to come to terms with life in another culture, and to develop a framework for studying religion and ideology in complex societies" (p. x). There is an excellent and quite extensive glossary with a key to word pronunciation. Hess also points out that the book is a chronology of his three visits to Brazil, and the emphasis in each section reflects his level of acquaintance with the culture. The first field trip, in 1983, is titled, "Places," for he was familiarizing himself with the land and peoples he was studying. The second trip, 1984-1986, reflects the thinking and observations that went into his dissertation research, and so he calls it "Rituals and Ideologies." The third trip was in 1988 and is entitled "Spirit," and in it he describes some poltergeist investigations he conducted. He was interested in the way in which poltergeist outbreaks involved religion, formally and informally. He also picked up a good joke or two on the way, and fortunately, he shares them.
Publisher Information:New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. 214p. Bibl: 205-209; 1 fig; Glossary: 195-203; Index: 211-214; 1 table
Previous Record Previous
in this

List All Titles in This Category (59)

Book Reviews Menu
in this

Click a section below to move around the EHEN website.
Home/Menu       About EHEs      EHE Autobiographies      EHE Book Reviews      EHE FAQ      EHE Network      Email Talk      Experiences Library      Info/Contact      Join Us!      Living EHEs      Parapsychology      Rhea White      Web Links      Web Talk      What's New     

All website graphics, materials and content copyright © 1997-2003
by EHE Network. All rights reserved. For permissions
please contact EHEN's Executive Director, Rhea A. White.

Web Media Management by Palyne Gaenir of ScienceHorizon.

Exceptional Human Experience Network
Exceptional Human Experience Network