How is Afflictive Possession 'Learned'? Gender and Motility in South India

Kalpana Ram*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines forms of affliction that are understood as a kind of possession, all the more afflictive because they are experienced as 'coming out of nowhere'. It is easier to specify the kind of learning associated with valued forms of possession, which occur in the context of ritual performances that entail informal apprenticeships. The sense in which afflictive possession is 'learned' is far more diffuse, and occurs much earlier than the point at which diagnosis occurs. This paper traces such learning to early forms of socialisation into gender, focusing on motility and bodily comportment, as central to the way in which the lived body of gender moves between different practical environments. In an environment that includes spirits and deities, female movement acts as guarantor, not only of social stability, but of cosmological order and disorder.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-226
Number of pages24
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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