She talks to angels: spirit becomings, embodied memories and affective imagination skills in catholic exorcism in contemporary Italy
Andrea De Antoni
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I focus on phenomena of possession and Roman Catholic exorcism in contemporary Italy. I argue that imagination skills related to bodily perceptions, embodied memories, "affective correspondences" and processes of enskilment play a major role in the emergence of spirit realities.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I focus on phenomena of possession and Roman Catholic exorcism in contemporary Italy, in an attempt to "capture that moment of transcendence in which perception begins, and, in the midst of arbitrariness and indeterminacy, constitutes and is constituted by culture" (Csordas 2002, 61). I will show the processes through which spirits emerge through possession and exorcism, on their becomings and the "social life" (Blanes and Espirito-Santo 2013) that they acquire and elicit. Relying on ethnographic data gathered through fieldwork, I will analyse the case of Maria (45 year-old in 2017), who is possessed by the devil and has undergone Roman Catholic exorcism since 2014. In particular, I will analyse the processes of emergence of Metatron, an Archangel that Maria feels particularly close and that, when invoked during exorcisms, provokes very strong reactions by the possessing devil. Following Sneath, Holbraad, and Pedersen's (2009) discussion on the "technologies of imagination," I will argue that imagination skills related to bodily perceptions, affect and feelings, or "affective imagination skills," play a major role in processes of emergence of spirits, their realities, subjectivities and consequent social lives. In doing so, I will shed light on processes of enskilment (Ingold 2000) related to imagination, arguing that in these processes, "affective correspondences" (De Antoni 2017) and embodied memories play a major role. Moreover, I will show and that embodied memories and imagination entangle with the "cultural," discursive, aspect of spirits, as well as with power and authority, during (ritual) practice.
Skills of feeling with the world: affective imagination, embodied memories and materiality in the emergence of sociality