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The egalitarian body. A study of aesthetic and emotional processes in massana performances among the Mbendjele of the Likouala region (Republic of Congo)

Oloa-Biloa, C; (2017) The egalitarian body. A study of aesthetic and emotional processes in massana performances among the Mbendjele of the Likouala region (Republic of Congo). Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Egalitarianism is a practice as much as it is an ideology (Woodburn 1982), and several authors highlighted the importance of the use of the body in huntergatherers’ egalitarian societies as well as the ways political power is framed by a subtle balance between genders (e.g. Biesele 1993; Kisliuk 1998; Finnegan 2013) through embodied performative practice. An important context in which Mbendjele egalitarianism is embodied by individuals is through musical and playful performances obeying the strict rules of the institution massana. In this thesis, I describe these embodied processes with a focus on the role of aesthetics and emotions, to show how egalitarianism is re-created/re-asserted during each massana performance. Mbendjele egalitarianism and the role of massana in this political system are investigated through an analysis of the processes of embodiement of egalitarian values and behaviour, and of the effect of play, music, dance and emotions on the human body in the Mbendjele context. This thesis is divided in six chapters. Chapter 1 defines egalitarianism, Mbendjele egalitarianism and the role of massana in this political system. Chapter 2 explores the processes of embodiement of egalitarian values and behaviour, and the effect of play, music, dance and emotions on the human body in the Mbendjele context. Chapter 3 investigates the structure of Mbendjele music, and chapter 4 looks at visual aesthetics in forest spirit performances (mokondi massana). Chapter 5 focuses on Mbendjele’s ‘collective body’ through a study of gender communication. Chapter 6 shows how Mbendjele achieve beauty and restore harmony through the performance of forest spirit rituals (mokondi massana).

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The egalitarian body. A study of aesthetic and emotional processes in massana performances among the Mbendjele of the Likouala region (Republic of Congo)
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1522643
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