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Title:Saints, virgins, and the Devil: Witchcraft, magic, and healing in the northern coast of Ecuador
Author(s):Quiroga, Diego
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Whitten, Norman E., Jr.
Department / Program:Anthropology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Religion, General
Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:This dissertation presents the ways by which people experience and express social and economic change through rituals and narratives in Muisne, a town in the northern coast of Ecuador. Change is mediated through a complex cosmology based on the opposition between the domain of the divino, centered on God, and the domain of the humano, the realm of the Devil.
Signifiers of the divino are described together with the ways by which they are used during communal rituals, called arrullos. During these rituals Muisnenos recentralize and empower sectors which, from the dominant perspective, are marginal areas. Such rituals thereby help people to overcome feelings of fragmentation, alienation and disorder. In this way Muisnenos generate webs of signification which, through words and deeds, connect individuals, geographical areas, and important calendar dates.
The thesis then turns to the ways by which local healers, curanderas, use the centralizing and ordering character of religious figures to heal patients afflicted by experiential illnesses. These illnesses result from incongruent and unsettling experiences. They constitute allegorical manifestations of social and personal crises and tensions. By manipulating the religious signifiers vis-a-vis experiential illnesses curanderas define deep undergirding personal fears and frustrations and social incongruities and address the organic, social and spiritual concerns of the patient. During the treatment of these illnesses, curanderas symbolically invoke wider social categories and values to reinforce existing local ideologies.
The diagnoses and treatments of illness mark moments of crisis, frustration, and anger that force reflections upon wider social issues. During these healing sessions the house of the curandera becomes a space of resistance to dominant discourses, practices and constructs. The manner in which Muisnenos appropriate, reject and transform official discourse through conversations and gossip that occur during the treatment of personal afflictions are described and analyzed.
While sacred figures and rituals constitute the sphere of the divino, the Devil, the spirits of the dead, and other mythical beings, called visiones, make up the domain of the humano. Many of the narratives that emanate from this domain tell of pacts with the "white" Devil in exchange for material wealth. I argue that these narratives and accusations constitute a counter-hegemonic discourse that questions the dominant developmental constructs of the ideology of the Ecuadorian nation-state.
Finally, the dissertation discusses discourses of envy and jealousy as they mediate many social relations in contexts of radical change. The manner in which alleged or actual cases of witchcraft internalize evil and constitute allegorical recognitions of the disruptive elements, which are an integral part of the daily lives of Muisnenos, is explored at length.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Quiroga, Diego
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9416429
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9416429

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