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Volume 42

New Directions in Anthropology

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A Goddess in Motion

Visual Creativity in the Cult of Maria Lionza

Roger Canals

212 pages, 20 illus., 2 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-612-6 $120.00/£85.00 Hb Not Yet Published (August 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78533-613-3 eBook Not Yet Published

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“At once a highly welcome addition to the literature on one of the most fascinating and least studied religious formations of the Americas, and a searching exploration of visual creativity, A Goddess in Motion presents an ethnographically rich, and theoretically sophisticated plea for re-thinking visual anthropology as more than a mere subfield of the discipline. In paying close attention to the kaleidoscopic swirl of ever-changing images that envelop humans, spirits and the spaces of their interaction, Canals reveals what a genuine anthropology of the visual might look like.” · Stephan Palmié, University of Chicago

“The most updated monograph so far on the images and performance around Maria Lionza, will move the reader as the Venezuelan goddess moves its believers. One of the deepest theoretical reflections about the social and cultural dimensions of a very local and at the same time very transnational religious life, it offers one of the most successful combinations of the anthropology of religion and the anthropology of the visual. Canals knows how to knit the two together, not only by reviewing with clarity the most innovative theories of these fields, but also by bringing them to life in his engaging ethnography centered on ritual imagery, participation and creativity.” · Ramon Sarró, University of Oxford

“This is an excellent study. It has the quality of a good ethnography of the Maria Lionza cult, analyzing the cultural particularity of this worship, and also contains good theoretical reflections on the role of visual images in religious cults.” · Joan Bestard, University of Barcelona

The current practice of the cult of María Lionza is one of the most important and yet unexplored religious practices in Venezuela. Based on long-term fieldwork, this book explores the role of images and visual culture within the cult. By adopting a relational approach, A Goddess in Motion shows how the innumerable images of this goddess —represented as an Indian, white or mesitzo woman— move constantly from objects to bodies, from bodies to dreams, and from the religion domain to the art world. In short, this book is a fascinating essay that sheds light on the role of visual creativity in contemporary religious manifestations.

Roger Canals is a lecturer in the department of social anthropology at the University of Barcelona. Besides numerous articles in visual anthropology and anthropology of religion, he is the director of several ethnographic films, internationally awarded, including The Many Faces of a Venezuelan Goddess (2007) A Goddess in Motion. María Lionza in Barcelona (2016). He was awarded the Fejos Postdoctoral Fellowship by the Wenner Gren Foundation.

Subject: Religion General Anthropology General Cultural Studies
Area: Latin America

LC: BL2592.M35 C36 2017

BISAC: SOC002010 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Anthropology/Cultural; SOC039000 SOCIAL SCIENCE/Sociology of Religion

BIC: JFSR Religious groups: social & cultural aspects; JHMC Social & cultural anthropology, ethnography


List of Figures


Chapter 1. Who is María Lionza?
Chapter 2. The cult of María Lionza
Chapter 3. The ritual image
Chapter 4. Between Art and Religion
Chapter 5. Bodies, Dreams and Apparitions
Chapter 6. A Globalized Goddess
Chapter 7. A Network of Images



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