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Boundaries are Made for Crossing: the feminized spatiality of Puerto Rican Espiritismo in New York City

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Espiritismo is a system of ritual healing indigenous to the Caribbean. Nearly 3 years of fieldwork in an Espiritismo worshipping community in Manhattan has produced a rich and textured source of ethnographic information that is analyzed in terms of its feminized spatiality. The central figure in this community is Maria; the priestess/medium who negotiates the exigencies of this world and the world of the spirits through trance-possession performance. Her articulation of Espiritismo uses the boundaries between self and community, male and female, Catholic and non-Catholic, the human world and the spirit world, and racial identities as resources for solving problems of well-being such as poor health, lost love, and economic deprivation for herself and her community of devotees. Maria's body is the primary site where these issues are resolved in that her body (re)presents, (re)produces and (re)valorizes the Espiritismo community's use of (in)visibility, particularity, trance-possession and inclusivity as a means for healing everyday problems in familiar spaces.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2000

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