When sadness is beautiful : a study of the place of rationality and emotions within the social life of the Àve de Jesus
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The ethnographic object of study of my thesis is a group of penitents, called ‘Ave de Jesus’, that dwells in the hinterlands of Northeast Brazil. As many other groups and penitents of this area they have a strong devotion to Padre Cicero -a deceased priest who founded the city in which they live, Juazeiro do Norte - who they believe to be Jesus himself. In fact, according to them, all the events of the Bible there in Juazeiro do Norte, such that they live in a biblical time, the Bible being their actual history which should culminate in destruction - A final end to the world. The Ave de Jesus have incorporated into their form of life the ways of being and relating to the world of those missionaries and religious leaders from the past, such as Padre Ibiapina, Antonio Conselheiro, Padre Cicero, and many ‘beatos’ who wandered throughout the ‘Sertao’* preaching penance and charity. Although these religious images make a lot of sense for those who live in such a harsh area as the ‘Sertoes’, there is no doubt that they are also in conflict with the mainstream system of interpretation of reality. In my thesis I explore how the biblical images take part in the construction and negotiation of truth and meaning, and how they work as references for acting, thinking and ‘feeling’. Because these biblical images are invariably related to moral sentiments - such as compassion, generosity, mercy, commiseration and a highly moral evaluation of the experience of suffering - that underlies the way of life of many penitents in Juazeiro, my thesis focuses on the social role of emotion in building up truth and creating sociability. The Chapter I provides the Introduction in which is given a bibliographical review on messianic and millenarian movements and pilgrimage, and points to my own theoretical choice. It is also in the introduction that I discuss the issue of rationality, ideology and narratives related to the problem of my research and the methodological approach. In Chapter III provide an overall ethnography of penance within the surrounds of Juazeiro do Norte in the past and present. In Chapter III I first introduce a brief ethnography of the Ave de Jesus. In Chapter IV I explore the situation of conflict between systems of interpretation within which Master Jose - the leader of the Ave de Jesus - finds himself. The subject of discussion in this chapter is the role of the affective and beauty in negotiating meaning and constructing truth. In Chapter VI dwell upon Emotions. In this chapter I provide a discussion concerning the importance of emotions in understanding the way of life of many penitents in Juazeiro do Norte, with special attention to the Ave de Jesus. Another subject of discussion is what an emotion is about and their relation to action and thought. In my ethnography and interpretation of emotions I have focused on those emotions which are cognitively stressed by the Ave de Jesus, such as suffering, compassion, mercy, etc. which underlies their form of life. In Chapter VI I provide a discussion on how images of charity are related to an ideal image of society -a Utopia. By going deeper into the relation between images of suffering, poverty and mendicancy I explore how the Ave de Jesus creates a sociality based on generosity, hospitality and sharing whereby they realise a messianic expectation. In the Conclusion I have tried to answer the main task of my thesis, that is, to provide an understanding of how sadness is beautiful. Through all the issues elected to for discussion in each chapter I intend to give support to my interpretation of the role and importance of emotions within the social life of the Ave de Jesus. *The semi-arid backlands of Northeast Brazil
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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