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Embodied Research and Writing: A Case for Phenomenologically Oriented Religious Studies Ethnographies

Kristy Nabhan-Warren*

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In this article, I examine anthropological and phenomenological theories and scholarship that recognize our bodies and our interlocutors bodies as texts that we can read to better understand ourselves and the lifeworlds our interlocutors inhabit. Drawing on my own ethnographic research and taking my cue from phenomenologists, I argue that Religious Studies ethnographers must look to their bodies as well as their interlocutors bodies as sources of knowledge. When we draw on our experiences and observations then we are truly writing empirically based scholarship. The ethnographer is grounded in her body, and her body is entwined with her interlocutors bodies and, by extension, their lifeworlds. Moreover, the body can be a vehicle for complicating, at times even transcending, emic (insider) and etic (outsider) boundaries. To ignore our embodied interactions with others in the field when we write is to occlude lived experience and how our bodies are epistemological sites that allow us privileged access into our interlocutors worlds. Our bodies are ways for understanding others lifeworlds. When we take a reflexive turn in our written work, we acknowledge this embodiment and connections, and yield greater insight into religion as it is lived.
*Kristy Nabhan-Warren, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL 61201, USA. E-mail: kristynabhanwarren@augustana.edu. The author would like to thank Stephen Warren for all of his support and encouragement in the writing of this article. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, June 2011, Vol. 79, No. 2, pp. 378407 doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfq079 Advance Access publication on November 24, 2010 The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com

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The theory of the body schema is, implicitly, a theory of perception. We have relearned to feel our body; we have found underneath the objective and detached knowledge of the body that other knowledge that we have of it in virtue of its always being with us and of the fact that we are our body. In the same way we shall need to reawaken our experience of the world as it appears to us in so far as we are in the world through our body, and in so far as we perceive the world with our body. But by thus remaking contact with the body and with the world, we shall also rediscover ourself, since, perceiving as we do with our body, the body is a natural self and, as it were, the subject of perception. (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 239)

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BODIES IN THE FIELD


MY INTERESTS IN THE convergence of religion, ethnography, and bodily interaction in fieldwork emerged in 1992 when I began fieldwork in a barrio in South Phoenix, Arizona. I was working with Mexican Catholics who venerated an apparition of the Virgin Mary to a middleaged woman named Estela Ruiz. The Catholic world of South Phoenix included gang members and their appropriation of sacred tattoos and gang-colored rosaries; pilgrims who journeyed to Estelas backyard shrine; and Mexican American Catholics who attended mass at the parish church. I was intrigued by the Catholicisms in South Phoenix, and the way religion was deeply embodied. Religion was lived and experienced in, by, and through bodies in the streets, in church, and at the shrine. The heat of the desert climate, my own uncertainties and anxieties, as well as the bodily nature of doing fieldwork itself planted the seeds of wonder which eventually surfaced in my first book (Nabhan-Warren 2005). I can vividly recall how I sweated in the 100 degree plus Arizona heat while I made the twenty-minute drive to Estela and Reyes Ruizs South Phoenix backyard shrine to the Virgin Mary. When I stepped out of the car, the coolness of the grassy shrine grounds enveloped me and I sat for hours under mesquite trees talking with Estela about her life as a Mexican American woman and Marian visionary. When I think of Estela and our first conversations, I think of the way my feet felt in the soft grass and how she moved her arms to emphasize the enormity of her religious experiences. Surrounding her were brightly painted statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Christ with outstretched arms, as well as a flowing fountain of water blessed by the Virgin herself. The smells were intoxicating: the warm, slightly acidic smell of

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mesquite trees mingled with the scent of candles whose wax was warmed by the sun. At Estelas invitation I began to attend the bi-weekly rosaries at the shrine and there I touched the rosary beads, prayed, and genuflected along with the other pilgrims. I watched as they filled empty milk containers with water from the Virgins holy fountain to take home to family and friends. I saw how the water was drunk and how the sign of the cross was made. Mexican ballads played on the loudspeaker, and Estelas voice, coming through the loudspeaker, read the messages of the Virgin Mary as given to her. Religion was tasted, smelled, seen, heard, and touched in this shrine space. It was here at the shrine space, kneeling on a carpet remnant and holding a rosary that had been given to me by a pilgrim that my body took on the comportment of a pilgrim. Making the sign of the cross, kneeling, and murmuring Hail Marys were visible signs of devotion and were dependent on body knowledge. Religion and bodies were indelibly connected in the shrine space and each defined the other. Hands held and moved crucifixes and beads, eyes were directed toward the Virgin Mary, and knees touched the ground. As an ethnographer, I needed to experience the beliefs, rituals, and praxis that I observed with my own body to gain a better understanding of the lived shrine Catholicism. Religious, ethnic, and cultural borders were crossed as well as maintained through bodily movement and interaction at this shrine. I struggled to become one with them through my body, but in the beginning of my fieldwork, my own self-conscious comportment revealed my liminal status as a curious anomaly. I was a non-believer among believers, a person with a distinct cultural background indelibly recorded in my body language. My experiences at the shrine prompted me to begin thinking about the ways in which the ethnographers body can be a barrier, but also a bridge, to cultural exchange and to entering and knowing her interlocutors lifeworlds, worlds of everyday goals, social existence, and practical activity.1 I wanted to elucidate the rich interworkings of my interlocutors daily lives, aiming for what William James calls the world of pure experience (James 1922). In order to bridge the world of outsider and insider, I had to use my body to experience the lifeworld I was studying.
1 Jackson provides an even fuller description of lifeworld as that domain of everyday, immediate social existence and practical activity, with all its habituality, its crises, its vernacular and idiomatic character, its biographical particularities, its decisive events and indecisive strategies, which theoretical knowledge addresses but does not determine, from which conceptual understanding arises but on which it does not primarily depend (Jackson 1996: 78).

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At the time I was working on my dissertation, there were few sources that meditated on the embodiment of ethnographic practice: how our bodies interacted with and reacted to and with others bodies. I was interested in exploring how our bodies could be points of great insight as well as disappointment and frustration, and how ethnographic writing would be better, more illuminating, if we began to consider more seriously and write reflexively about our bodies as sources of knowledge in the field. This is when I began to think about the possibilities of a phenomenologically oriented, embodied ethnography for Religious Studies. What would happen, I wondered, if Religious Studies ethnographers let go of deeply held epistemological biases which constrained us, and saw our bodies as research tools? We would have to let go of inhibitions of proper comportment, praxis, and ways of being in the field and would have to take on our interlocutors comportment. Through our embodied ethnography, I realized during my own fieldwork, we would gain a greater appreciation for the worlds we were studying. Moreover, critically analyzing both embodied breakthroughs and failures is essential for producing an empirically informed Religious Studies ethnographyfor as is the case with all sites of knowledge, bodies are imperfect. What I propose in this article is this: that Religious Studies scholars who do ethnography turn to their bodies as sources of perception, wisdom, and insight into their interlocutors lifeworlds, all the while acknowledging the limitations of our bodies (as with all empirically based perceptions) as sources of deep knowledge. And in addition to using their bodies as vehicles for deep knowledge in the field, Religious Studies ethnographers need to take embodied ethnography seriously when they write up their findings. Engaging in ethnography offers anything but a spectator theory of knowledge, and is deeply engaged in our interlocutors worlds (Dewey 1980: 23). Although a growing number of Religious Studies ethnographers are reflecting on their embodiment in the field, none have formulated a comprehensive argument that calls for embodied, phenomenologically oriented ethnography when we research and write. This article is an attempt to provide an argument for the necessity of embodied, phenomenologically oriented ethnography for the field of Religious Studies. What I intend to do in the following pages is to draw on my own ethnographic experiences and to use them as a springboard into making larger philosophical and methodological arguments aimed particularly at Religious Studies scholars who do ethnography. Although the target audience is ethnographers, I hope that what I have to say is of interest to Religious Studies scholars more generally. Religious Studies ethnographies that are embodied can change how we

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think about religion and the people who live it because they engage in the religious worlds our interlocutors make and inhabit in a direct emotional and physiological way. When we eat, drink, dance, and pray alongside our interlocutors in the field, we gain an understanding of religion as it is lived that would not be possible if we viewed our bodies as detached and irrelevant to what we research and write. I am indebted to phenomenologists, those philosophers who argue for a more broadly constituted idea of knowledge, one that considers embodiment on equal grounding with other sites that produce what we call knowledge. I work from the phenomenological perspective that knowledge must be empirically based on our careful, meticulous observations, but that our understanding of empiricism needs to be expanded to include body knowledge (as well as its limitations) and the perceptions we come to as a result of bodily knowing. Phenomenologists advocate a careful description of ordinary conscious experience of how life is lived, rather than what it should be (emphasis mine) as defined by our prior intellectual, theoretical lenses (Hammond et al. 1991: 3). Religious Studies ethnographers can make even greater contributions to our guild and to the people we set out to study if we consider our bodies as vehicles which can complicate the boundaries that exist between the emic (insider) and etic (outsider) perspectives. While these boundaries may never be fully transcended, in my experience they can be made more permeable and flexible. By engaging in our interlocutors rituals and practices with our bodies, we can come to a richer understanding of religion as it believed, lived, and experienced. We need to stop reifying theory and intellectually based knowledge if we are to understand and portray religion as it is lived.2 Since much of religion is practiced and embodied, ethnography that turns to the body as an epistemological site makes sense. Since the publication of David Halls Lived Religion in America (1997), there has been an increased focus in Religious Studies on the religious practices of those we study and there has been a lot of creative methodological work that combines various disciplines and their approaches to the study of religion. Ethnographies and social histories of religion in America that have been published since this edited volumes debut testify to a more nuanced and complex understanding of how people make their religious worlds. Building on the argument made in Lived Religion in America for increased attention to our interlocutors (whether living or

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2 The sociologist of religion Meredith B. McGuire makes a similar argument, geared toward sociologists (2008).

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dead) religious and spiritual practices, I want to see Religious Studies ethnographers go a step further, and understand their own bodies and all of their sensorial perceptions as ways to better understand the beliefs and praxis of those we work with in the field and then to reflect on this embodied knowing when they write. My concerns are with improving ethnographic thinking and methodology in Religious Studies. An ethnographic approach to the study of religion that is phenomenological and embodied can offer rich insights into lifeworlds and can be a real source of connection between us and them.

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ENTERING THE LIFEWORLD THROUGH EMBODIMENT


The concept of lifeworld, promoted by the philosophersphenomenologists Edmund Husserl, Alfred Schutz, Thomas Luckmann, John Dewey, and most recently Michael Jackson, takes seriously what William James has called the world experiencedthat which is immediate, evident, and a form of doing (Husserl 1931; Schutz 1972; Jackson 1989, 1996; Schutz and Luckmann 1989; Dewey 1905). Focusing on the lifeworlds of our interlocutors rather than the theories we bring with us to the field helps us to form a deeper connection with those we encounter during the course of our ethnography. A form of backwards design, that is, beginning with lifeworld and ending in theory, rather than the other way around, can help us avoid the overintellectualizing and over-analyzing which can plague our scholarly work and can distance us from those with whom we form connections in the field. Moreover, our interlocutors frequently read what we write, and we need to write something that speaks to them and their experiences.3 They must recognize their worlds in our words. Though phenomenologists believe that the world cannot be put into words, an approach to the study of religion as it is lived that has a broad understanding of what constitutes knowledge can move us in the right direction (Jackson 2007: xi). One of the ways we can get at the richness of our interlocutors lifeworlds is to turn to our bodies and our interlocutors bodies as sites of knowledge and understanding. Ethnographic fieldwork differs from other methodologies because it allows us a privileged entre into the worlds we are studyingnot in a distanced, abstract way but in an
3 A vast literature exists on the ethics of doing ethnography today. For especially good discussions of the complexity of conducting contemporary ethnography and the liminal situation of the ethnographer, see Behar (1996), Brown (1998), Brettel (1993), Clifford and Marcus (1986), Griffith (1997), and Rosaldo (1986).

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embodied way. We do not need to imagine because we can experience. We share meals with our interlocutors, engage in direct dialogue, play with their children, share in their joy and grief, have our families visit us when we are in the fieldthis is anything but abstract, intellectualized knowledge and experience. These experiences are lived, emotive, and embodied, and when we take a step back and analyze what Marcel Mauss called the techniques of the body (our bodies and our interlocutors bodies), we can discover an entre into understanding their lifeworld (Mauss 1968). It can admittedly be a challenge to address and write about bodies interactions in the field without making this approach to the study of religion seem reductionistic. The body should not replace the mind as the focus of an essentialized and privileged way of knowing. I am not arguing for the body to become a new paradigm (replacing a timehonored reification of the mind with a reification of the body) but do think, along with Michael Jackson, that by including our bodies as epistemological sites of knowing, and by making a reflexive move in our writing, we would be moving toward epistemological honesty.4 Ethnographic methodological reflexivity through embodied ethnography should not be something that is an afterthought; it should be the very basis by which fieldwork is done. When we write our embodiment into our work, we acknowledge how the anthropologists and the interlocutors bodies interact; the ethnographers body is deeply entwined within the lifeworld. It is precisely because of this intertwinedness of the ethnographer and those with whom she works in the field that clear-cut distinctions between emic/insider and etic/outsider cannot be maintained as the ethnographer is more of a shapeshifter, one who takes on multiple forms in the field. It is by turning to our bodies as sites of knowledge and understanding that we open up possibilities of ways we can understand our interlocutors lifeworlds. Incorporating embodied ways of knowing and seeing opens up vast possibilities for ethnographic research and writing in the field of Religious Studies as religious myths, rituals, and symbols are themselves embodied and lived by our interlocutors. A greater attention
4 It is here that I depart from the anthropologistphenomenologist Thomas Csordas, who argues for embodiment as a paradigm for anthropology. I agree with Csordas that it is critical to apply the analysis of subject and object to our distinctions between mind and body, between self, and other, between cognition and emotion, and between subjectivity and objectivity in the social sciences, but I do not see the benefits of replacing one paradigm with another. My call is for a greater inclusion of the body in how we approach research and writing in Religious Studies, not replacing one paradigm (which is problematic) with another (equally problematic). Csordas (1990: 36).

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to embodied knowledgeours and theirscan lead to a more complete understanding of the religious worlds we study and seek to understand. Although the past decade has seen an increase in Religious Studies ethnographies that have incorporated embodied ways of knowing, a more radical and comprehensive epistemological shift needs to occur. While embodied ways of knowing and understanding are mentioned and explored in these ethnographies, phenomenologically oriented ethnography is not the primary vehicle for understanding religion. In short, scholars in our field need to stop privileging mind knowledge over body knowledge. Over the last ten years, ethnography as a method has gained acceptance in the field of Religious Studies but it is still viewed with some suspicion.5 As Michael Jackson writes, What is at issue here is the intellectualist fallacy of speaking of life as if it were at the service of ideas (Jackson 1989: 2). Shedding our dependence on European intellectualist notions of what constitutes knowledge and truth is essential of we are to effectively work with and attempt to understand others worlds. The sociologist of religion Meredith B. McGuire has recently written about the necessity for scholars of religion to rid themselves of time-worn notions of what religion is and is not: If we fail to recognize the contested nature of definitional boundaries, we risk adopting an overly institutionaland historically inaccurateview of religion. That is, we risk entertaining that religion is a thing, an entity that exists in the real world with its distinguishing features objectively given and not subject to historical or cultural change (McGuire 2008: 43). McGuire goes on to write about the embodied nature of religion as well as the importance for sociologists of religion who do ethnography and qualitative research to turn to their bodies as sources of insight and connection to those they study. Religion is something that is made and experienced and to ignore the embodied nature of religious praxis is to miss the point of ritual, beliefs, and praxis. Religious Studies ethnographers must become more interdisciplinary in terms of reading current sociological and anthropological theories that address bodies as sites of knowledge and shared experiences. We need to read more broadly and pay closer attention to those theories that prompt us to be more attentive ethnographers. A leader in

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5 This suspicion stems from the idea that ethnography is not sufficiently rigorous as a methodology and that it boils down to hanging out with and talking with people. A friend and colleague of mine in a Religious Studies department was recently denied tenure because her book (which has since won national awards) was not seen as academic enough because its methodological lens is ethnography. This colleague was later granted tenure but only after a long and exhausting process.

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the field of phenomenological inquiry and ethnography, Michael Jackson has written extensively on how phenomenological inquiry is radical empiricism; a science of understanding others lifeworlds by acknowledging our bodies observations, interactions, and situatedness in the field. Jacksons work, for example, is well known in the fields of sociology and anthropology, but Religious Studies ethnographers as a whole have yet to incorporate and adopt his ideas of phenomenology and radical empiricism into their approach to studying religion. A phenomenological approach to the study of lived worlds points to the limitations of the concept of culture which has, since the Enlightenment, long been used to distinguish humans from animals and the distinctions that have been drawn rest on properties of the mind and language. A phenomenological approach is the scientific study of experience and gets beyond a fixation with order and structure and addresses the uncertainties and inconsistencies of life (Jackson 1996: 13). Phenomenology is radical empiricism; it gives incompleteness and tentativeness the same analytical weight as the finished and the fixed, and refuses to privilege and reify an epistemology that is based on mind knowledge (Jackson 2007: xxv). On the other hand, it does not privilege any kind of knowing with the body but does take embodied knowing seriously. Anyone who has engaged in ethnography knows that what we observe and experience in the field is embodied and lived, and cannot be easily or neatly reduced to order and structure because we are not removed from the worlds we study. Yet we should see this messiness not as an unfortunate hindrance but as an opportunity to re-examine any theories we learned in graduate school and beyond. Theory is useful and important for scholars as they seek to put into words the worlds they study, but theory can be dangerous as it can lead an ethnographer to misrepresent those she studies in order to fit them into a theoretical category or box. Ethnography forces us to rethink and re-examine our motivations as Religious Studies scholars, and our embodied experiences can yield rich insights into our interlocutors lifeworlds. When I was in my second month of intensive fieldwork, I became quite ill. This bout with appendicitis and surgery was rather inauspicious in the beginning, yet my decision to remain in the field ended up being an auspicious outlet for my entrance into the healing discourses of the Mexican American Catholic community in which I had immersed myself, and to a deeper understanding of their intense devotion to the Virgin Mary and Jesus. I learned, through discussing my own pain and discomfort, the cosmology of healing among these particular Mexican American Catholics. I was the subject of many prayers, and prayings-over, and through my illness

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reached a greater understanding of some Mexican American Catholic perceptions of healing and the thin line between my own body and theirs. I gained a greater appreciation for the more charismatic elements of Catholicism as well as the degree of cooperation between laity and clergy who prayed with and over them. Ethnographic knowledge, as Deidre Sklar has written, starts with the body, with the understanding that ways of moving are ways of thinking.6 And as the ethnographer of religion Sarah Pike has written about her experiences with neo-pagans, by moving into the ritual space and around the fire with other dancers, my perceptions of the space and people around me changed (Pike 2001: 186). For Sklar and Pike, their bodies and their interlocutors bodies were mediums of knowledge and insight into Mexican American and neopagan lifeworlds. Moving, seeing, smelling, and tasting with our bodies in our interlocutors worlds make us neither emic nor etic but something else that is more complicated. Both Sklar and Pike moved with and into the ritual spaces of their interlocutors. They overcame any hard and fast distinctions that scholars draw between insider and outsider and gained a greater understanding of religion as it is lived. Moreover, they shelved theory when they were in the field and came back to it laterusing it when it elucidated what they had seen, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled in the communities in which they were immersed. Theory was useful but only when it came after the field experiences.

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TAKING A PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH


Religious beliefs and expression are in part defined by mens, womens, and childrens bodies, and it takes our bodies to understand how and why bodies are important mediums for religious expression, belief, and practice. When ethnographers write about their bodieshow they felt when they had to eat and to prepare certain foods, what it was like to pray along with others, being exhausted, sick, and happythey convey the world they have experienced and provide a phenomenological description. According to Maurice Merleau-Ponty, phenomenology is the search for a philosophy which shall be a rigorous science but it also offers an account of space, time, and the world as we live them. It tries to
6 As Sklar has written: If spiritual knowledge is as much somatic as it is textual, then clues to faith, belief, and community would be embedded in the postures and gestures of the fiesta. How does one move here, through what kinds of spaces, constrained by what boundaries? What does the fiesta taste and smell like? What are its sounds? In what rhythms do people move together? My learning, I knew, would begin with my body (Sklar 2001: 4).

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give a direct description of our experience as it is, without taking account of its psychological origin or and the causal explanations which the scientist, the historian, or the sociologist may be able to provide (Merleau-Ponty 1962: vii). Taking our cue from Merleau-Ponty, Religious Studies ethnographers can think of our participation and observation as scientific and empirical. Everything we know is based on what we observe, smell, feel, touch, and experience through our embodied existence. Our ethnographic bodies can be thought of as geometers in that they help us decode things that work in the world (Bourdieu 1977: 114116). As decoders of lifeworlds (at least partial ones), our bodies can provide us with a rich description of lifeworlds without explaining away religious experiences, beliefs, and practices. As Robert Orsi has noted, it is acknowledged shared humanity that should lead ethnographers to acknowledge our embodied relationships that we form in the name of research and to write about them as epistemological research (Orsi 2002: xxviii). Anthropologists have long focused on giving the other, our interlocutors, a voice. Yet we also need to recognize our bodies and our interlocutors bodies and comportment as a kind of voice that can yield great insights into their lifeworlds. We must reject the classical empiricist notions of experience as reducible to passively received sense impressions, but rather think of experience as involving everything that makes us humanour bodily, social, linguistic, and intellectual being combined in complex interactions that make up our understanding of the world (Jackson 1989: xvi). An important move for Religious Studies ethnographers is to abandon our privileging of what constitutes knowledge and information and to widen our perspectives on epistemological inquiry and empiricism. We can begin to do so by allowing our bodies in the field to lead the way. It is important to think about how bodies can be important lenses into deeper understandings of what phenomenologists call habitus and lifeworlds. For the past thirty years or so, anthropologists have been searching for concepts and terminology to replace the concept of culture, which has been used to separate and elevate humans over animals and to distinguish some groups of people from and over others. The designation culture has long been applied to people who are literate and who have certain kinds of qualities, in contrast to those others who are believed to be more akin to animals and who react instinctually and with their bodies. Phenomenologists view the concepts habitus and lifeworlds as an improvement over the concept of culture because they refuse to make the assumption that we humans are better than/more sophisticated than animalsthey view our worlds as connected and interrelated.

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When Religious Studies scholars turn to phenomenological works such as Pierre Bourdieus Outline of a Theory of Practice (1977), Maurice Merleau-Pontys Phenomenology of Perception (1962), Michel De Certeaus The Practice of Everyday Life (1988), Drew Leders The Absent Body (1990), and Michael Jacksons Paths Toward a Clearing (1989), At Home in the World (1995), Things as They Are (1996), and Excursions (2007), we are able to understand just how important it is to consider including bodies as sites of knowledge and insight (ours and theirs) in ethnographic writing. Bourdieu, Merleau-Ponty, de Certeau, Leder, and Jackson all challenge the Cartesian model, which still has a firm hold on how we as academics privilege data (and of the necessity of transcending this way of privileging), the concept of culture, and show how we need to transcend the mindbody dichotomy. They all consider the landscape of knowledge to be complex, multi-layered, and multi-dimensional and refuse to privilege one mode of understanding over another and urge us to rethink our preconceived notions of what constitutes our perspectives and how we make and conceive of knowledge. In one of his many captivating stories, de Certeau writes about walking in the city (Manhattan) and how bodies (eyes, mouth, feet, hands) engage in an erotics of knowledge and in the ecstacy of reading such a cosmos (de Certeau 1988: 92). We map out places with our bodies and our perceptions inform us about the world. Phenomenologists like de Certeau are wary of establishing new paradigms but argue for a wider consideration of what constitutes knowledge and understanding. Ethnographers in various fields of discipline have, up until fairly recently, overlooked the significance of bodily interactions in the field much like philosophers of experience, as Leder points out, have neglected to think about embodiment issues. As Leder has written, Through the lived body I open up to the world. This body is not then simply a mass of matter or an obstructive force. It is a way in which we, as part of the universe, mirror the universe (Leder 1990: 173). The notion of mind over matter sweeps the physical pain, joy, and desire that we may experience in the field under the heavy objective rug. The Cartesian split between the mind and the body can be extended to the way in which anthropologists are taught to do ethnography. Since approximately the seventeenth-century scientific revolution, a scientific realism stance was adopted which essentially privileged public experience. We can relate this privileging of empirical science to the dualistic ontology, which has been carried over into the way fieldwork is conducted and written. Taking the body seriously, as an epistemological source, is a direct challenge to the idea that anthropologists can be

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objective because embodied experiences are taken to be subjective and not reliable sources. A growing number of recent ethnographies, including those in Religious Studies, are portraying bodies as reliable texts that do indeed yield great insight into others worlds. Many anthropologists and sociologists of religion have turned toward Pierre Bourdieus theory of habitus, which can be seen as a more comprehensive way of understanding others. Habitus, according to Bourdieu, are systems of durable, transposable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representation (1990: 53). Bourdieus notion of habitus is similar to the concept of lifeworld, but focuses more on the overarching structures (and the objective) which serve as the backdrop for the internal workings of what we can call, for lack of better terminology, culture. As Jackson has observed, Bourdieus theory of habitus has been embraced by academics much more than the concept of lifeworld because it seems to lend itself more easily to a dichotomization of subjectivity and objectivity (Jackson 1989: 2021). We like to see patterns and a larger order that give meaning to our theories and the worlds of those we study. As a structuralist, Bourdieu does not focus on individual autonomy so much as he does on the overarching forces/structure outside of life as it is livedbut he does focus on the intricacies of everyday life and existence (Bourdieu 1977). Like another oft-invoked French philosopher Michel Foucault, Bourdieu is wary of phenomenology because he sees it as solipsistic, as placing too much emphasis on the individual/subjectivity, and not enough on patterns outside the individuals grasp. Habitus is a useful way of understanding others lived worlds but because it can be too structurally oriented, focused on objective realities, I do not find it as helpful as is the concept of lifeworld in our larger quest to understand the lived realities of our interlocutors.7 Lifeworld acknowledges the importance and necessity of subjectivity and does not see it as incompatible with
7 While some phenomenologists would not consider Bourdieu a phenomenologist because of his focus on objectivity and wariness of subjectivity, I find the concept of habitus to have phenomenological leanings because it is critical of the culture concept and because in his various writings Bourdieu is akin to Geertzs (1977) idea of webs of significance and the innerworkings micropractices of everyday life and take a turn toward subjectivity. While some may not agree with my interpretation of Bourdieus concept of habitus or with my decision to place him with other phenomenologists, I have placed him in the phenomenologists camp because in many ways he exhibits the care and concern with broadening out our understanding of knowledge as do phenomenologists. If anything, Bourdieu provides an important critical check on our understandings of objectivity and subjectivity and cautions us to be wary of the self. But I do agree with phenomenologists like Michael Jackson that Bourdieu is more structuralist-leaning (akin to

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empiricism as does Bourdieu. While Bourdieus habitus is helpful and is an improvement over the loaded concept of culture because it refuses to engage in highlow dichotomization of peoples and their worlds, it is not as sophisticated as is the concept of lifeworld, which takes into account a wider range of perceptionssubjective and objective and considers them as equally viable sources of knowledge. As I realized, through the twists and turns of my own ethnographic journeys, treating our bodies and our interlocutors bodies as the revealing texts that they are leads to a reflexive ethnography that yields fresh insights into their worlds.8 We need to meditate on our ethnographers body as a crucial medium through which we as ethnographers can better understand others experiences. This realization will free the ethnographer (and ethnography itself ) to transcend what the anthropologist Paul Rabinow has called corridor talk among anthropologists. It is crucial that we move beyond merely chatting about what we ate, drank, felt, danced, and experienced and write about it because it can yield rich insights into others worlds (Rabinow 1977: 253). In other words, ethnographers need to avoid what Michael Jackson has called the regrettable disturbance of excluding the lived experience of the observer from the field (Jackson 1989: 4). Jackson asserts that a radically empirical method includes the experience of the observer and defines the experimental intersubjectivity (Jackson 1989: 4). What Jackson refers to as a radical empiricism necessitates the incorporation of lived experience. Taking a phenomenological approach that incorporates a multitude of modalities can help us avoid ideological priorities. As the sociologist of religion Meredith McGuire has written, the social scientific study of religion is not well served by ideological links with power, control, and false objectivity (McGuire 2002: 207).

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Michel Foucault) that most phenomenologists. Bourdieu does not fit neatly in any methodological or theoretical category. 8 Many early ethnographies privileged the ethnographers body and mind over his/her informants; for instance, we see earlier works such as Evans-Pritchards (1935) and (1965), assume the comportment and attitude of authority; his body (as well as the natives) is beneath his esteemed mind, Pritchard represents a mechanistic view of the body which is translated into his works. However, when we look at other early works such as Malinowskis (1932) and (1967), acknowledgment of the body, its trials and limits, is seen to arise. Rabinows (1977) and Vincent Crapanzanos (1980) are often cited as progressive modern ethnographies in that they incorporate the author more directly into the final text.

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MOVING BEYOND VIEWING THE BODY AS DETACHED AND BURDENSOME


As Merleau-Ponty emphasizes, we are not born into this world as particulars. Rather, we get a sense of ourselves through our interactions with others (Merleau-Ponty 1962). When the bodily nature of ethnographic research is approached from a phenomenological perspective, the body constitutes the very essence of what it means to do ethnography. Our bodies are not in and of themselves separated from other bodies. Whether we like it or not, we are connected to a larger social body and to other individual bodies. Ones body cannot be reduced to an image or concept that is separated from language and time; or the community in which one is living and working (Bourdieu 1977: 72). An example may help to explain what I mean here. It was through my ethnographers body that I gained the deepest understanding of a world of which I was not a part, and at times my outsider-ness was the only way I could truly grasp the importance of what the community was doing and not take it for granted. Although I danced with my evangelical friends during an evangelical faith course they sponsored, I could not get beyond feeling a little silly that I was wearing a paper crown that read Fool for Jesus. Yet it was precisely this awkward comportment that led me to enter into this lifeworld, and it was through my embodiment that I grasped the theology underlying the week-long faith course that this community sponsored. Because I had danced alongside them, I had a much better idea of what these evangelical Catholics meant when they said that they were head over heels in love with Jesus and the Blessed Mother. They were overcome with joy and wanted to let go of inhibitions and be like children when they danced for the Lord. As a scholar I, too, had to try to let go of my own inhibitions and dance with them. Sitting on the sidelines would have reinforced emic/ etic boundaries, distinguishing me as the academic in their midst who wanted to study them. I listened to what my body wanted to doto dance (the music was intoxicating)and in moving around the backyard, arms linked with other faith course candidates, I gained an insight into my interlocutors beliefs and desires that would have been impossible were I to have sat on the sidelines, observing and taking notes. I experienced their happiness, and the emotional release they felt as they bobbed and weaved through the backyard space. Wow! Religion can be fun! said one of my interlocutors and I agreed with her. After dancing, we sat, sweaty and tired, and sipped from bottles of water.

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Our bodies, as the philosopher Ludwig Binswanger has noted, are in the world and constantly attempt to maintain a hold on stability (Binswanger 1963: 223). Several days after the backyard dancing, I experienced the final requirement of initiation into Marys Ministries. Along with the twenty or so other men and women who were making the course, I crawled in the dirt and under the rope toward the Holy Spirit, a large plaster statue of a white dove hanging suspended from the Marian altar that was our destination. Crawling through the mud on ones belly was about humbling oneself to the power of the Holy Spirit. It was also about the public demonstration of commitment and humility before God, Mary, and Christ. If I had not participated and in this case gotten dirty, I would not have grasped the rich complexities of this group of Mexican Americans lived religious experiences. Crawling on ones hands and knees signified making God an integral part of their lives. As I crawled, I focused on the white plaster dove, willing myself to get there. I was tired, hungry, and dirty. The dove offered peace and reconciliation to the humble, penitent crawler who sought out a new life. While I may not have been looking for a new life in the Spirit as were my interlocutors, my embodied experiences and later conversations with initiates and with other Marys Ministries members confirmed the crucial component of the body in reaching salvation. I, too, experienced relief and excitement when I reached the point of destination and I experienced the bonds of community with my fellow course candidates. Everyone I spoke with after the event talked about the power of the Holy Spirit and how Jesus helped to move them (both literally and metaphorically) under the rope and toward salvation. My South Phoenix interlocutors experienced religion via their bodies and as an ethnographer whose own existence was intertwined with theirs, it was imperative for me to experience this, too. While my explanations for how I reached the rope may have differed, my own struggles, fatigue, hope, and reaching out to something greater than myself to get me to the plaster dove Holy Spirit connected me to them in a powerful way. After this exercise in humility and hope I felt integrated in the world I was studying, not separate from, and it was because I had decided to learn with my body. I still took notes in my notepads, observing, but more than writing I acted by participating in the lifeworlds of my interlocutors, patterning my actions after theirs. My body became a primary vehicle for my ethnographic research and the deeper I went into the research the less I wrote during the day. I chose to write later on in the day, removed from what I was experiencing and where I had time and

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space to reflect. As Jean-Paul Sartre has written, our very existence predicates others, and we derive supreme satisfaction from our integrated relationship to and with the world (Sartre 1982: 305). We can apply Sartres idea of having an integrated relationship to bodies interacting in fieldwork; epistemological inquiry cannot be separated from our embodiment in the field. Epistemology and phenomenology are deeply entwined. The ethnographers identity as a participantobserver is a curious one, indeed as there is an implied insider/outsider dichotomy from the outset of our research. And a phenomenologically oriented, embodied ethnography can offer the supreme satisfaction of connecting with others and their lived religious worlds.

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FROM CARTESIAN DISEMBODIMENT TO EMBODIMENT: THE BODY IN ETHNOGRAPHIC HISTORIOGRAPHY


When we take a historiographical look back to some early ethnographies, we can appreciate more fully the body as a site of knowledge and the missed opportunities when the ethnographers body is seen as a hindrance rather than a seat of knowledge. In the famous anthropologist E. Evans-Pritchards early works on the Nuer and the Azande, for example, what is striking is the intentional and methodic disembodied nature of his writing.9 His bodily comportment is seen to be standing above and beyond the natives, who though deemed sophisticated by the master himself, are so because they are docile in the face of a colonialist regime. Pritchard implicitly compares his body with those of the Azande by providing Westerners a description similar to one that could be applied to an animal. The reader is thus able to maintain a smug satisfaction that we are superior to them. Of course, mainstream current ethnography has moved beyond such colonialist stance, but it is still important to reflect on ways in which bodies have been perceived by ethnographers. We need to ask ourselves not only how far have we come, but also how much further do we need to go.
9 Evans-Pritchard describes the Azande in a taxonomic formula: the Azande are so used to authority that they are docile; that it is unusually easy for Europeans to establish contact with them; that they are hospitable, good natured, and almost always cheerful and sociable; that they adapt themselves without undue difficulty to the new conditions of life and are always ready to copy the behavior of those that they regard as their superiors in culture and to borrow new modes of dress, new weapons and utensils, new words, and even new ideas and habits; and that they are unusually intelligent, sophisticated, and progressive, offering little opposition to foreign administration, and displaying little scorn for foreigners (Evans-Pritchard 1965: 13).

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Comparing Evans-Pritchards account with Bronislaw Malinowskis description of doing ethnography in the South Seas Islands shows a shift in attitudes toward the body in doing ethnography:
Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by all your gear, alone on a tropical beach close to a native village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of site. Since you take up your abode in the compound of some neighboring white man, trader or missionary, you have nothing to do but to start at once on your ethnographic work. Imagine further that you are a beginner, without previous experience, with nothing to guide you and no one to help you. For the white man is temporarily absent, or else unable or unwilling to waste any of his time on you. This exactly describes my first initiation into fieldwork on the south coast of New Guinea. I well remember the long visits I paid to the villages during the first weeks; the feeling of hopelessness and despair after many obstinate but futile attempts had entirely failed to bring me into real touch with the natives, or supply me with any material. I had periods of despondency, when I buried myself in the reading of novels, as a man might take to drink in a fit of tropical depression and boredom (Malinowski 1932: 4).

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The contrast between the two approaches to the body is striking, especially given that Evans-Pritchards account was written over forty years after Malinowskis (1965 compared with 1932). What can we gain from this comparison, in our meditation on embodied ethnography and phenomenology? The richness of Malinowskis depiction of his ethical, epistemological, and existential dilemmas is entwined with his bodys search for connections. His poignant sense of otherness combines his skin hue, nervous disposition, anxiety at seeing the dinghy sail away, and his knowledge of being in a world that he feared would ignore him permanently. He underscores the irony of anthropology: that we are to effortlessly transcend our immediate culture and enter into another, as if disengaging ourselves from our mind, through our body, were possible. Malinowski is cognizant of the supreme difficulty of such a feat, and his doubts loom large.10 His is an early example of an embodied ethnography as well as an openness to phenomenology.

10 The Cartesian models pervasiveness is seen in Evans-Pritchards work, and the sample of his work provided merely brushes the surface of this topic. This kind of ethnographic method and comportment is critiqued by Leder who writes that a main reason to challenge it has to do with its far-reaching social effects. This hierarchical dualism has been used to serve projects of oppression directed toward women, animals, nature, and others (Leder 1990: 4).

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Malinowski, like the more contemporary phenomenologists and ethnographers whose work is addressed in this essay, addresses complex issues of the bodily experience, posing them as part of the larger challenge of doing fieldwork, and of dealing with existentialism. He simply admits his own mortal shortcomings and, in turn, points to the ethnographers embodiment as a help and hindrance to understanding our interlocutors worlds. Malinowski was cognizant of how his body was a boundary between himself and others, and he understood that his frustrations were rooted in his inability to overcome his embodied limitations. He grasped what Merleau-Ponty has since succinctly stated, the function of the living body cannot be understood, except in so far as I am a body which rises towards the world (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 75). If we avoid critically addressing how our bodies are mediums of cultural exchange and ethnographic knowledge, how can we elucidate our connection with the lifeworld in which we were working, playing, livingbeing? If we ignore ethnographic embodiment, we in turn deny the epistemology of fieldwork. As Meredith McGuire has argued, if our bodily senses and our emotions are socially shaped, then a close study of how they work may produce useful tools for intersubjective understanding (McGuire 2002: 209).

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THE PHENOMENOLOGICAL, EMBODIED TURN IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES


Recent religious studies ethnographies have shown greater attention and sensitivity to how bodies are reliable mediums for understanding. While the authors are not all acknowledged phenomenologists, the greater openness they exhibit toward what constitutes knowledge and method is distinctly phenomenological. What links them is that they experiment with method, challenge Cartesian-bound rules of research and writing, and incorporate bodily ways of knowing and understanding. Moreover, they view the methodology of ethnography as more of an art than a science, one that takes into consideration the complexities of working in others worlds as well as the changing situatedness of the ethnographers status and role in the communities in which she works. One of the earliest Religious Studies ethnographies to take seriously the role of the ethnographer body is David Habermans Journey Through the Twelve Forests (1994). Habermans body is the episteme through which he connects with his fellow pilgrims on a 200-mile pilgrimage known as the Ban-Yatra in north-central India. Habermans vivid descriptions of India and the pilgrimage process accompany

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personal insight which weighs heavily on his and his interlocutors bodily pain and suffering in undertaking the arduous journey. The pilgrim, as Haberman writes, undertakes the sacred journey for certain reasons; yet the existential issues that accompany a pilgrimage necessarily include bodily experiences. Sweaty bodies, merciless heat, hunger, thirst, and other bodily discomforts are ingrained in a pilgrimage. Haberman skillfully includes his own embodied experiences, not out of solipsism, but out of the desire to evoke the interworkings of a pilgrimage and to make a deep connection to other bodies he is with. Haberman weaves his own experience into the text and refuses to separate his and others pain and discomfort, his mind in turmoil from his blisters, conversations with others, and Hindu cosmology because they are interrelated. He does not keep his experiences to himself and he discusses his ailings with those around himhis body became a locus for conversations with his interlocutors and he, in turn, learned more about them in modeling his own movements after his Hindu compatriots. He learned how to be a pilgrim through watching their bodies, talking with them about what they were doing when they prayed in the temples, and by making his own body conform to the rhythms of pilgrimage and Hindu cosmology and cosmogonic myths. Through the workings of his body, Haberman learned that his body space was fused with the cosmic space of Hindu cosmogony (Bourdieu 1977: 91).11 Since the mid-1990s, a growing number of Religious Studies scholars have been finding merit in an ethnographic approach to the study of religion and are turning to the bodytheirs and their interlocutorsas an epistemic site, a source of deep knowledge and understanding. And rather than relegate their thoughts on embodied ways of understanding others lived worlds to their diaries, they are venturing forth and are reflecting on embodied ways of knowing into their published work.12 These scholars are interdisciplinary in their approach to the study of religion and draw on anthropological, sociological, and historical methods when they write. They question time-worn truths of the various disciplines in which they are immersed, much like the phenomenologists, and they are seeking for more nuanced ways to

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11 Haberman has situated himself in a particular habitus which, as Bourdieu writes: generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations in order to attain them (Bourdieu 1990: 53). 12 Excellent examples of this new turn in ethnography include Bales (2005), Bender (2003), Brown (1998), McFarland Taylor (2007), Pike (2001), and Sklar (2001).

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study others religious worlds. Though few if any of these scholars call themselves phenomenologists or refer explicitly to lifeworlds, they are using the kind of approach to the study of religion that phenomenologists advocateone that opens up the conversation on what constitutes knowledge. Many of these Religious Studies ethnographers view their bodies and their interlocutors bodies as sources of insight into lived religious worlds. Moreover, many of these recent Religious Studies ethnographies elucidate Bourdieus emphasis on the logic of practical knowledge, which is inseparable from social conditions. Bourdieus larger ideas of broadening out what constitutes as knowledge is being taken seriously by Religious Studies ethnographers and they are seeking new ways to describe what they are experiencing, observing, and encountering in the field. These ethnographers are becoming more comfortable involving the body in a most immediate sense, and refer to their bodies as a way of knowing. These scholars understand that writing and doing ethnography without including the body, then, shortchanges the research, maintains a division between the mind and body, and privileges objective data over that which is subjective. As Sarah McFarland Taylor discovered during the course of her research with Green Nuns, shucking garlic, mulching, weeding, and harvesting organic produce alongside Catholic Sisters provided her with a privileged entre into their lifeworld (2007). And Susan Ridgely Bales discovered that her own embodied comportmenthow she sat, how she wore her long curly hair around the children taking First Communion courses allowed her to enter the lifeworld of these Catholic children and their adult mentors (2005). Yet even though Bourdieus concept of habitus has been discovered and effectively used by Religious Studies ethnographers such as Taylor and Bales, a more intensive phenomenology remains largely undiscovered and underused. With an ever-increasing number of Religious Studies ethnographies being published these days, the time seems ripe for a more intentional turn to embodied phenomenology. Like Haberman who felt the need to push his body to understand the religious world in which he was immersed, I felt that I had to challenge my body when I was at the shrine. I demonstrated my good intentions by kneeling for as long as the rosary session, which could last for over an hour at the backyard shrine. The problem with this was that I was scheduled to have surgery on my knee around this time and the kneeling created intense pain in my knee ligaments. The thin carpet remnant I kneeled on did little to cushion the pain and I marveled at those beside me who knelt without using any cushioning whatsoever. The

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Ruizes, devout Catholics, all knelt during the rosary, and being an honorary kin, a spiritual daughter to their family, it seemed expedient to me that I participate and to be a good daughter by kneeling as they did. Through my kneeling and genuflecting at the shrine, I gained a sense of other pilgrims experiences, and how they understood sacrifice. Physical pain as they understood it was nothing next to the glories they would experience in heaven. Their pain was their cross that they took up to show their love and devotion for Mary and her son Jesus. For the Ruiz family and the pilgrims who went to the shrine, discomfort and pain were intrinsic parts of the experience and strengthened their bond with Jesus, Mary, and the saints. What Ariel Glucklich calls sacred pain connected pilgrims with each other, giving them a sense of belonging to a larger community (Glucklich 2001: 6). Reyes, Estelas husband, would implore the audience to endure a bit of discomfort for the Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, and I had no desire to ignore his pleain fact, I was so self-conscious that I felt that he was looking directly at me when he said this. Yet I must not have been completely off target, for my efforts were noticed, and my tenacity reaped ethnographic rewards in addition to the greater understanding of pain, suffering, and sacrifice. After one particular rosary, Reyes beckoned me to an adjacent lawnchair to discuss his upcoming pilgrimage to Medjugorge. His offer to engage me and the subsequent invitation to stay for dinner were a result of my bodily participation in the group prayer session my immersion in the lifeworld of prayer and petition. Reyes told me that he was impressed that I had honored their faith and more importantly, he said, la Virgincita by praying muy fuerte. Engaging bodily in their religious world led to a breakdown of emic and etic identities and made the ethnographic work more complex and rewarding because I was no longer merely an observer but a sincere participant seeking to understand and to experience what the Ruizes and pilgrims to their shrine were. Embodied ethnography, then, can break down barriers of emic and etic and can show how fluid those boundaries can be if we engage our whole selves in our fieldwork. As my participation in the backyard rosaries increased, so did the responsibilities that were given to me. By the time of the fifth annual retreat for Our Lady of the Americas, I was part of the planning and subsequent activities and was asked to be one of the flashlight guards during the candlelight vigil to end street violence in the community. Walking on poorly lit, busy roads, I took this job seriously and made certain that the pilgrims stayed on the sidewalks and helped lead songs of prayer to the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was

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during this time that several participants in the mile-long trek spoke with me about their experiences with the Virgincita. These conversations were not initiated by me, it was our collective experience of walking in the night together with the soles of our feet crunching gravel and broken glass that made us, and our bodies, one in the procession. In this instance, through embodied ethnography, I transcended the insider/outsider dichotomy and walked and talked with other pilgrims. I was simply a fellow pilgrim who was showing my respect for la Virgin de las Americas. The weekend-long Marys Ministries faith course which culminated in the weekend celebration of the Virgin Marys apparitions to Estela Ruiz was physically demanding, yet I left the retreat with a sense of accomplishment that I had not experienced before. This stemmed directly from my embodied involvement in the retreat. I cooked and served food to hungry pilgrims; offered water to those who were thirsty, walked the streets of South Phoenix at night, and helped to clean up afterward. I did all these things with other women and men who were devotees of the Virgin. Deidre Sklar has written about her experiences cooking and cleaning with Mexican American women in New Mexico and how making albondigas, meatballs, with women helped her to understand the circularity of devotion to the Virgin of Guadalupe (Sklar 2001: 78). Like Sklar, the sociologist of religion Courtney Bender cooked and cleaned alongside her interlocutors. She worked alongside volunteers at a soup kitchen for AIDS victims. Her entre into the lived world of the kitchen and the larger aims of the nonprofit group that ministered to those with AIDS was through her bodily engagement (Bender 2003). Like Sklar and Bender, through my body, I gained an entryway into cultural dialogueI had willingly and wittingly offered my services and what resulted was astounding. My tired body was a site of knowledge and I returned to those embodied experiences when I wrote up my fieldnotes and later, the book. The insights I had gained via my bodily interactions with my interlocutors would have never been possible through observation alone. Carolyn D. Smith and William Kornblums collection of essays show how embodied narration can yield fresh insights into lifeworlds and into the researchers positionality. The essays are reflexive, thoughtful, and take on a phenomenological stance. Barbara Myerhoff, while working with elderly Jews at a California Senior Citizens Center writes about her constant, nagging awareness of her youth and the accompanying flexibility of her body. She attempted to experience what her elderly friends did on a daily basis by imposing bodily restrictions on herself, voluntarily. She writes

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At various times, I consciously tried to heighten my awareness of the physical feeling state of the elderly by wearing stiff garden gloves to perform ordinary tasks, taking off my glasses and plugging my ears, slowing down my movements and sometimes by wearing the heaviest shoes I could find at the center. (Myerhoff 1989: 87)

Myerhoff, in mimetic actions, experienced the panic and fear of falling, blurred vision, and fuzzy hearing. Through attempting to put herself, quite literally, in others shoes, she elucidates the enriching quality of the bodily experience in fieldwork. With her end goal as depicting her friends fears, laughter, hopes, and despair, and cosmology, she incorporated her body in a manner that she felt helped to understand the lived experience of the elderly. Myerhoff found it impossible to separate her mind from her body when she was conducting her research and from the lived worlds of her interlocutors. She willingly embraced the lifeworld of the Center, and involved her whole self in her interlocutors lifeworlds. Involving our whole selves as ethnographers is imperative if we are to write ethnographies in which our interlocutors see themselves.

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A FINAL CALL FOR EMBODIED, PHENOMENOLOGICAL ETHNOGRAPHY IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES


I would like to end this article by reflecting on a final ethnographic moment that illustrates how our bodies and our interlocutors bodies are important texts that should be taken seriously as sites of knowledge and epistemological inquiry. It was the 1998 December retreat to celebrate the Virgin of the Americas apparitions to Estela Ruiz. I had been asked by Armando, one of Estelas sons, to carry the statue of Santo Nio from the Virgins altar to the front of the procession and was in the process of following his request. When I stepped down from the altar, a small group of Mexican women surrounded me, effectively preventing me from walking any further. As I held the plaster statue dressed in a golden cloak and blue velvet dress, these five women bent down and kissed the saint, stroked it lovingly, and murmured Santito! and Santo Nio, que precioso!13 After addressing the little saint, the women also made the sign of the cross and bowed their heads, showing respect for him; familiarity did not offset their respect for Santo Nio. These women,
13 Oktavec (1995: 342) discusses Mexican Americans devotion to saints and the relationships they form with them.

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who were maintaining relationships they had forged with the saint, were demonstrating what Kay Turner calls the aesthetic of connectedness.14 As I stood there, holding the statue surrounded by this group of devoted women, I watched them as they cried, prayed, and tenderly touched the statue; my body, though connected to theirs through the statue, was part of their circle of prayers and devotion and allowed me a privileged glimpse into their intense Catholic devotions, one that I will never forget. Their devotion to this saint was moving and beautiful, and literally impressed itself on me. There are certain moments in doing ethnography that stand out from the rest, for me, it was those in which my body was a medium for understanding this Mexican American world. Like the Marys Ministries initiation experience in which I crawled under the rope to the Holy Spirit, I decided to include this experience in the book because, like my appendicitis experience, it granted me a fuller understanding of the religious world and, ultimately, how my ethnographers body was connected to the embodied religion of these women and men (Nabhan-Warren 2005). Without the use of my body throughout my fieldwork experience and without understanding how faith is infused and contested in bodies, I would have never gained a sense of the lifeworld of the Mexican American Catholics with whom I worked. As MerleauPonty asserts, we are never separated from others, and the I is intimately joined to the we. A fieldworker does not engage in work by herself, for she is connected, whether she fully realizes it or not, to overarching narratives of meaning within the lifeworld. Ethnographers engage in thinking poetically; keeping alive a sense of what it means to live in the world one struggles to understand, rather than treat that world as a text or abstract object of contemplation (Jackson 2007: xii). In our struggle to understand our interlocutors lifeworlds, and our place in it as ethnographers, turning to our bodies is a way of thinking poetically and moreover, going along with the rhythms of everyday life as it is lived. Throughout this essay, I have been referring to our bodies as mediums for our understanding of others worlds. I have tried to show the particular insights of a phenomenological perspective, suggesting that we assume a phenomenological approach to knowledge. By turning to our bodies and our interlocutors bodies as sites of deep knowledge

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14 Turner (1982: 310) and (1999) explores the connectedness Mexican American women form with saints and deities.

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and understanding, we can do and write better, more epistemologically based ethnographies. Religious Studies ethnographers can gain a deeper appreciation of the myths, rituals, and symbols we encounter in the field if we relax our dependence on the theories we bring with us to the field and let our hands, feet, eyes, and hearts lead the way. We need to think poetically; our bodies and our interlocutors bodies are poetics, voices through which we relate to each other, and from which we engage in their lifeworlds. If Religious Studies ethnographers are indeed serious about addressing lived religion, we must learn from our bodies and our interlocutors bodies, for they are sources of knowledge, insight, and understanding. The practical effects of a greater turn toward phenomenological, embodied ethnography will be better, more honest studies of religion as it is lived. Ethnography is a hybrid textual activity that traverses genres and disciplines (Clifford and Marcus 1986: 26). The process of writing ethnography, then, must cross inter-textual boundaries, and thus see and read bodies as the illuminating texts that they are. I have learned through a meditation on my own fieldwork endeavors and by reading in a wide range of disciplines that allowing bodies ours and theirsto speak and to tell, is one way in which we can reach a phenomenological ethnography. It is one that sees us and them as connected, for it is primarily through our flesh, bones, and blood that we enter into relationships with others, and create our own webs of meaning simultaneously as we enter into theirs. In order to grasp the complex realities of our interlocutors lived worlds we must turn to our own complex ways of knowing and our bodies as one of those rich sites. The field of Religious Studies will be greatly enriched if ethnographers are able to take that epistemological leap of faith and trust our bodies and embodied interactions in our interlocutors lifeworlds. They will be able to see their worlds more clearly, more familiarly articulated in the kind of ethnography for which I am advocating if we alter our methodological approach and take on a more expansive view of knowledge. In the end, responsible and honest scholarship begins with an attentiveness to ethnographys multifaceted methodology; we are participants as much as we are observers. At times we are outsiders, yet at others, we are insiders. We are never fully outside/etic nor are we fully inside/emicethnographic reality is more of a hybrid of the two. We must pay attention to what our bodies and our interlocutors bodies are telling us if we are to write ethnographies that come closer to the truths of our interlocutors and their lifeworlds, as well as our own intentions and agendas.

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Immediate Empiricisms. The Journal of Philosophy 2:597599. The Quest for Certainty. New York, NY: Putnams. Nuer Religion. Oxford, UK: University of Oxford Press.

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