chapter  6
16 Pages

Re-enchanted selves

An ethnography of wild woman workshops in Belgium
WithCarine Plancke

Following the questioning of the secularization thesis, it is currently accepted that the secular and the religious are mutually determined. This holds particularly true when one takes into account gender and considers the continuing existence, throughout secular modernity, of a feminine domestic world where religion remained important. This chapter advances that gender similarly is a crucial dimension when considering re-enchantment in its ongoing intertwinement with disenchantment, the main factor enabling secular modernity in Weber’s view. Since the feminine remained associated with affect, relationality and other-orientedness, it is assumed that women maintained an openness towards experiences of enchantment. This is evidenced, in particular, by their predominance in new spiritualities. Through an ethnographic study of wild woman workshops, the essay then concretely explores women’s experiences of re-enchantment and how they relate to the self. The workshops, which took place in a natural setting and consisted of body practices that entailed physical interaction with each other and with the environment, induced feelings of participation beyond the bounded self. Yet, they also emphasized the need to follow one’s inner, true self, countering a possible losing of the self. A detailed analysis of two participants’ accounts of re-enchantment allows us to empirically follow this balancing movement – between going beyond the closed-off self and remaining anchored in the self – and the way the privileging of one of the two poles relates to the women’s life trajectory and life-stance in terms of “living life for oneself” or “living life for others” (Sointu & Woodhead 2008).