Global Power Relations at Play in Fieldwork
Researching Brazilian Spiritism
Keywords:global power relations, insider/outsider, John of God, mediumistic operations, Spiritism
In this paper I seek to discuss the methodological challenges of conducting fieldwork amongst one’s own. I explore the fluidity of the outsider/insider identity within the research. I argue that a global “power-geometry” is at play when establishing rapport with a community where fieldwork is conducted. Using the Brazilian Spiritist healing centre established by John of God (João de Deus) as a case study, I show that the field in Brazil is not isolated from global flows. Thus researchers must take into consideration the impact of global flows of ideas and people on the religious community as well as the offshoots of this community overseas. Following Marcus (1998) and Clifford (1997), I suggest that tracking flows is as important as researching a specific site.
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