The Closed Body





I was sitting on the floor of Flávio's house one evening a few months ago, helping him cut up a big bowl of ochra. He was preparing a heaping sacrifice for Xangô, thunder king and principle of divine justice, as well as the ruler of Flávio's head. Besides the ochra, there was roast yam, a nice fat piece of tripe, and thick, pungent cigars and cane alcohol for Exú, the trickster who would communicate the gift. Flávio is a student of anthropology at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil; his interest in Candomblé, however, is not merely academic. He is a big time macumbeiro —a master manipulator of fetishes.

Like the vast majority of Candomblé participants, Flávio's black. Like many male practitioners of African ...

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