Bodily Indoctrination

By Arnaud Halloy

Drawing on the testing of three theoretical models of imitative learning in the ethnographic context of an Afro-Brazilian possession ritual, this paper examines the concept of bodily indoctrination. The vernacular concept of “bodily indoctrination” refers to mirroring in an imitative learning situation, where the possessed mimics the initiator’s movements and the initiator, in his turn, imitates the dance of the deity that the possessed needs to learn. In this singular pedagogical context, bodily indoctrination seems to rely on tightly interwoven and mostly unconscious perceptual, emotional and sensorimotor mechanisms. The imitated behavior is first grasped bodily through emotional and motor resonance. The research also highlights that bodily indoctrination is the result of the pedagogical interaction between the deity and the initiator, characterized by perceptual and interpretative biases that facilitate learning and the imitative process.


  • imitation
  • possession dance
  • motor and emotional resonance
  • natural pedagogy
  • bodily indoctrination
Go to the article on