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Practical Aesthetics: Negotiating Sickness in Serbia and Macedonia


As cultural practitioners, traditional healers in Macedonia and eastern Serbia negotiate the materiality of the sick body by facilitating aesthetic encounters. Bajanje healers manipulate words, lead, plants, water, and other materials to transform their guests’ relationships to health. Within the bajanje encounter, healers create intimate, culturally-sanctioned spaces through which to materially intervene in their guests’ mental and physical health. Negotiating shame and vulnerability, bajanje healers empower individual members of rural Serbian and Macedonian villages to maintain their own health and the health of their communities. Calling upon a long traditional lineage, these healers delineate a community that extends through innumerable past and future generations. By recognizing how bajanje weaves itself into the daily, material routines of healers and their guests, I propose that we recognize bajanje as part of everyday life and by extension that we recognize bajanje as contemporary and enduring.

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