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The Brazilian Beheaded Lady and the Werewolf Woman: Aparecida in Performance

Wednesday, July 24, 2019 1:00 - 2:30 pm

The figure of Our Lady Aparecida, the black patron saint of Brazil, was first found in 1717 without a head. Found in the river that cuts through the Paraíba Valley—a site of extermination of Black and Amerindian people—Aparecida (the lady “who appears”) evokes a history of disappearance. In the basilica, devotees see the figure’s face and head. Her lower body is covered. Her brokenness is not seen. Yet, next to the basilica, an amusement park houses attractions such as the Werewolf Woman, the Snake Woman, and the Gorilla Woman. Is this where Aparecida is revealed as other? Perhaps, in the amusement park, Aparecida becomes aparição, an apparition.

On a visit to Aparecida with devotees from a place called Devils’ Hole, the highlight of the trip was the Werewolf Woman. There are interesting similarities between the spectacle of the Werewolf Woman and the descriptions of women regarding their own experiences of sudden mutation. A state of bodily innervation is evoked as “suffering women” turn into animals (virando bichos) and charge at those who threaten their family and neighborhood networks. That which is separated by the ritual process in Aparecida, is conjoined in the tension-charged experiences of women in Devils’Hole. These procedures of montage deserve attention. A body without a head emerges from the bottom of a river, and then the head appears. The pieces are joined. This presentation will examine these procedures.

Hemispheric Institute
20 Cooper Square, fifth floor
New York, NY 10003

John C. Dawsey is Professor of Anthropology at the University of São Paulo (USP) and the Founding Director of NAPEDRA – the Research Center in Anthropology, Performance and Drama, founded in 2001. In 2011, he coordinated the I Encontro Internacional de Antropologia e Performance (EIAP), and, in 2010, the I Encontro Nacional de Antropologia e Performance (ENAP), in São Paulo, Brazil. He has coordinated numerous projects, including a Fapesp thematic project on anthropology and performance, involving thirty-five researchers from five different universities. He has published various books and collections, and over fifty academic articles.

The event is free and open to the public. A reception will follow. A photo ID is required to enter NYU buildings and 20 Cooper Square is a wheelchair accessible venue.