De-orientalising Ritual Blood
Calabria’s Vattienti, a Case Study
This article uses affect theory to redefine the flagellation rituals performed by the vattienti and to relate them to the Šīʿa celebrations of Āšūrā in Lebanon. The term ‘vattienti’ designates the flagellants of a small village situated in Calabria (Southern Italy), who perform their rituals during the last days of the Holy Week, while Āšūrā indicates the mournful ceremonies dedicated to the martyr Ḥusayn. The paper argues that the two rites create specific affective atmospheres, and that the comparative analysis of these atmospheres – especially in relation to the agency of the Italian and Lebanese performants – allows us to overcome representations of these rituals that are centred on primordial religious fanaticism. Agency, specifically, is considered here as the human capacity to act and to resist social structures. The methodologies used in this research are qualitative and, especially, ethnographic fieldworks, participant observations and in-depth interviews.