Dances of Hostility and Friendship: Embodied Histories of Group Relations in the Agusanen Manobo Spirit-Possession (Yana-an) Ritual

Jose S. Buenconsejo


This paper explores the complex, aesthetic embodiment of a particular history of group relations. It investigates how the form or materiality of ritual séance-constituted by dance, music, speech, and acts-reflects changes in the political economy. The paper deals with Agusanen Manobo séance (yana-an) as a channel for embodying the Agusan Manobo's rich cultural imagination of "others." Agusan Manobos are indigenous people,most of whom are now Christians and who live in middle Agusan Valley. Their "imaginary others" are distant outsiders with whom the Manobos owe some kind of affinity because of a more or less shared historical experience based upon concrete social exchange practices.

The paper examines two kinds of social relations: (1) Manobos vis-à-vis other indigenous peoples, and (2) Manobos vis-à-vis the Visayan speaking settlers. It demonstrates that the nature of the first social relation is symmetrical or egalitarian. This contrasts with the second, which is asymmetrical. The paper shows that Agusan Manobo yana-an makes reflexive, visceral statements about these social relations, enabling ritual participants to define their social identity and reconstrue the newer asymmetrical Manobo-Visayan relations back to its original equalizing one.

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ISSN: 2012-0788