A joy that opens up the mind: Emotion as a key concept in a non-dualistic approach to Punu dancing (Congo-Brazzaville)

Past and future contributions to the journal
By Carine Plancke

Among the Punu of Congo-Brazzaville, ikoku dancing is conceptualized through the notion of joy. Good dancing is considered to be joyful, “making the mind burst open.” A similar opening of the mind is acknowledged in the trances of water spirit celebrations. Hence, a rigid distinction between the profane and the sacred is broken. The mind-body opposition inherent in this distinction is further undone by the following observation: the inspiration that this opening up awakens not only pertains to the body but also to the mind. It is a matter of movements, sounds, and words emerging in one single move. On that account, what discourse should be adopted to deal with these practices while staying in touch with the observed reality and its local conceptualization? An emphasis on emotion, as this concept is handled in the philosophies of Merleau-Ponty and Spinoza, seems to offer a possible answer. Since, in these theories, emotion is regarded as an inchoate force, it is possible to deepen the dance dynamics of emergence and amplification without defining them beforehand according to their actualization in terms of the body-mind dichotomy.

  • dance
  • emotion
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • anthropology
  • phenomenology
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