Religious Affects: Animality, Evolution, and Power
A Theory of the Waterfall Dance: On Accident, Language, and Animal Religion
This chapter brings together the theoretical resources developed throughout the book to advance a comprehensive theory of the chimpanzee waterfall dance. It begins with a reflection on the opposition, according to some philosophers of religion, between religion as a linguistically mediated register of human transcendence and “everything else” as mere “dancing.” To counter this framework, the chapter uses affect theory, feminist studies of religion, and evolutionary biology to reconsider religion itself as dance. Rather than theorizing dance as “pure plastic rhythm,” as some Deleuzian affect theorists suggest, it focuses on dance as a play of intransigent forms producing affective responses felt by bodies. For instance, E. O. Wilson’s biophilia hypothesis proposes that most animals have evolutionarily derived predispositions to absorb affective responses from elements of the natural world. Not only the chimpanzee waterfall dance but other modes of religious expression can be understood as affectively mediated dances between bodies and forms in their worlds.