Ritual Healing and the Politics of Identity in Contemporary Navajo Society

  • Thomas J. Csordas
Part of the Contemporary Anthropology of Religion book series (CAR)


My point of departure is the intersection of three heavily traveled conceptual highways that wind across American anthropology. The first is ritual healing, which has preoccupied anthropology as religion, as performance, as therapy, and as a window on broader cultural processes (Csordas and Kleinman 1996; Dow 1986a; Kleinman 1980;Levi-Strauss 1966). Second is identity politics—that is, the deployment of representation and mobilization of community within plural societies in the name of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, race, or religion—which has in recent years captured the attention of both cultural anthropology and interdisciplinary cultural studies (Calhoun 1994; Friedman 1992; Giddens 1990; Lash and Friedman 1992). Third, Navajo society remains one of the most heavily documented, most frequently drawn on for ethnographic examples, and most irritated by the persistent probing of anthropologists of all stripes (Farella 1984; Kluckhohn and Leighton 1946; Lamphere 1977; Witherspoon 1977). In this article, I elaborate the relation between ritual healing and identity politics in contemporary Navajo society by presenting a conceptual framework that can potentially be applied across a wider range of societies.


Healing Form Collective Identity Identity Politics Ritual Healing Traditional Ceremony 
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© Thomas J. Csordas 2002

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  • Thomas J. Csordas

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