Global Power Relations at Play in Fieldwork

Researching Brazilian Spiritism


  • Cristina Rocha School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney



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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Author Biography

Cristina Rocha, School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney

Cristina Rocha teaches at the School of Humanities and Languages, University of Western Sydney, Australia. She is the editor of the Journal of Global Buddhism. Her writings include Zen in Brazil: The Quest for Cosmopolitan Modernity. University of Hawaii Press, 2006; “Spiritual Tourism: Brazilian Faith Healing Goes Global,” in On the Road to Being There: Studies in Pilgrimage and Tourism, edited by W. Swatos, Leiden: Brill, 2006, 105–23; “Seeking Healing Transnationally: Australians, John of God and Brazilian Spiritism,” TAJA (The Anthropology Journal of Australia), 2009, 20.2, 229–46.


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How to Cite

Rocha, C. (2010). Global Power Relations at Play in Fieldwork: Researching Brazilian Spiritism. Fieldwork in Religion, 3(2), 145–160.