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Anthropology 301:The Global Performance of Healing

Summer 2015 in Brazil
Instructor: Erin Moore
Dates: May 18-June 26, 2015

Trip includes 2.5-week tour in Brazil: Brasilia tourism and a spiritist healer, 2 weeks with the famous John of God in Abadiana, and finally a visit to Rio with its beaches, favelas, Sugar Loaf and Corcovado.

This 4-unit PWP course focuses on the performance of healing through classroom study and a four-week field course in Brazil.  Students will be admitted on a first come, first served basis.

All healing uses the power of the mind to engage the body to heal.  People everywhere get sick and all societies have developed practices, technologies and medicines to treat illness.  However, not all peoples understand healing and the body in the same way.   Through participant observation this course will unravel the healing modalities in four different Spiritist healing centers.  Spiritist mediums channel beings from the other realms to bring messages, to instruct and sometimes to heal.  We will explore this phenomenon in a variety of locations most importantly in Abadiania, Brazil.  This is the home to the renowned Spiritist healer John of God who channels 47 different entities for the purposes of healing body, mind and spirit. 

During our first week we will focus on participating in the life of a pilgrim.  What process does John of God ask of each visitor?  What does it feel like to place your hopes in his hands?  During the second week we will shift our focus to the critical analysis of the Casa rituals while continuing to participate.  Our participation will be supplemented by collecting healing stories from patients and mediums.  Everyone has a story to tell --  believers and non-believers.  There are those who feel that John of God deals in the “black arts.”

Through a problem-based approach to learning we will ask questions such as: What is the field of anthropology and how do cultural anthropologists do their research?  What is this religious worldview and how was it incorporated into the Catholic culture of Brazil?  What is the Spiritist concept of the body/the spirit/the afterlife?   How do these concepts affect ideas about healing?  How does John of God create and market his brand?

In complement to our research time in Brazil we will tour Brasilia, Rio and an old Portuguese colonial town.  Upon returning to USC we will have 2 weeks in the classroom to put our research into the context of healing in other traditions through texts, ethnographic films, and guest speakers.  The students will show a final powerpoint presentation for their classmates.


Program Costs:

Tuition: $6408

Airfare: $1283 (as of October, 2014)

Note: Students should wait to purchase airline tickets until instructed to do so, as courses may be canceled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Additional expenses: $1717*

Total: $9408 (approx)

*Additional expenses include estimated costs for accommodations, other fees, and personal expenses (which can vary greatly from student to student).

Funding is available through SURF, student undergraduate research fund.

For further information on this course and to apply, contact Dr. Erin P. Moore, Department of Anthropology  at