W028
Spirits going global: translocal aspects of spirit beliefs and practices

Convenors:
Andrea Lauser (University of Goettingen)
Kirsten Endres (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Stream:
Workshops
Location:
Wills 3.31
Start time:
19 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

In many parts of the globalised world, local traditions of engaging supernatural entities (spirit worship, spirit possession, witchcraft, sorcery, etc) are important arenas through which the dynamics of political, economic and social change are confronted and negotiated.

Long abstract:

In many parts of the globalised world, local traditions of engaging supernatural entities (spirit worship, spirit possession, witchcraft, sorcery, etc) are important arenas through which the dynamics of political, economic and social change are confronted and negotiated. The various ways in which devotees transact with the spirit world in dealing with the discontinuities of their lives indicate that spirit beliefs and practices possess a tremendous creative potential. Spirits thus play a key role in fusing the global into the local and vice versa, defying Max Weber's paradigm of an inevitable Entzauberung of the world in the face of modernity. Moreover, spirits and their mediums no longer appear to be bound to well-defined spatial and cultural frames of reference. Instead, they seem to add to Appadurai's five dimensions of cultural flow by constituting multicultural spiritscapes. These spiritscapes not only enable relocated/diasporic communities to weave the beliefs and practices of their homelands into the fabric of their lived experiences, but also enlarge the repertoire that spiritual seekers in Europe and elsewhere may draw upon in order to experience and mimetically appropriate the Other. The primary objectives of this workshop are to explore, in a comparative perspective, how different factors (market relations, migration, tourism, etc) contribute to the reconfiguration of local spirit worlds, and how these processes in turn (re)shape local and translocal discourses on gender, class, power relations and interpretative control. A second focus is to reflect on the ways in which diasporic communities and spiritual seekers engage global spiritscapes in the task of redefining and positioning their identities in the cultural flow of a deterritorialised world. <br/>Some questions for consideration are: <br/>What kind of spirits and supernatural forces are engaged and for which purposes? <br/>Who are the social actors involved in engaging the spirits? <br/>Why do certain spirits flourish in a global context and others do not? <br/>Which qualities or characteristics attributed to them are essentialised and which are subject to negotiation across borders? <br/>Which dynamics evolve in the process of (re)contextualising these spirits in local/translocal social networks? <br/>How do objects and commodities used in ritual practices contribute to these dynamics? <br/>What is negotiated through encountering the Other? <br/>To what extent can the dynamics of globalised spiritscapes be analysed in terms of 'occult economies' (Comaroff and Comaroff)?