Visual Ethnography
Workshop 2021

This workshop brings together two ethnographic films focusing upon trance and healing rituals in a transnational perspective: Maria Líonza’s rituals in Venezuela and Spain filmed by Roger Canals, and Caboclos Nkisis worship between Cuba and Brazil filmed by Ana Stela Cunha.

While addressing spiritual trance transnationally, these films raise a key theoretical issue of ethnographic film (and anthropology in general): how are the filmmaker’s body and technological devices the ethnographer uses during research involved within the ritual, thus, transforming it? And how may this subjectivity be reflected in the film during the editing process?

As filmmakers we know that we do not only film reality, but we transform it by filming it. So, how can our presence alter the development of the ritual? Can (or should) cinema intervene in the healing process (especially if it has a transnational dimension)?

In this regard, filming the manifestation of spirits in rituals often poses some ethical questions, such as: How do we get permission to film from human and non-human agents intervening in the ritual? And how do we visualize this "pact" with others in the film?

In methodological terms, both films have had to face technical challenges, such as filming when there is a lack of light, or when participants use substances that can damage technical devices. These challenges will be discussed during the session.

This workshop aims to offer a multi-perspective view upon trance and healing in visual ethnography by examining both its practice and the conceptual and ethical issues it addresses.

DISCUSSION WITH THE FILMMAKERS Roger Canals and Ana Stela Cunha, chaired by Emily Pierini 

A Goddess in Motion: María Lionza in Barcelona
directed by Roger Canals
Caboclos Nkisis: A Territorialidade Banto no Brasil e em Cuba
directed by Ana Stela Cunha


Convenors: Emily Pierini (Sapienza University of Rome), Alberto Groisman (UFSC), Vânia Cardoso (UFSC), Fernando Ciello (UFRR), Roger Canals (University of Barcelona)

Funded by the European Union

Marie Sklodowska-Curie Global Fellowship "THETRANCE-Transnational Healing: Therapeutic Trajectories in Spiritual Trance". This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 895395.Partner Universities: Sapienza University of Rome, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Instituto Brasil Plural.