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Accepted Paper:

The devil is in the details: affect and creativity in the discernment of illness and demonic possession in contemporary Italy  
Andrea De Antoni (Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyzes the role of affect in discerning possession and illness among Catholic exorcists and medical doctors. It shows how affects are employed to criticize scientific analytics and argues that affective ethnographic methods are fundamental to understanding the emergence of possession

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will focus on the role of affects in the practice of discerning demonic possession and (mental) illness among Roman Catholic exorcists and the medical doctors who collaborate with them in contemporary Italy. In doing so, I will shed light on the interplay between affects, bodily perceptions and decision making. I will show that, while scientific analytics and interactions based on dialog and discussion are employed, certain detailed and specific feelings that emerge in the interaction with sufferers become fundamental to the diagnosis. I will shed light on how both exorcists and medical practitioners actively and creatively rely on such affects and, as a consequence, (re-)create the boundaries between two ontologies – “scientific medicine” on one hand and “religion” on the other – which are perceived as oppositional and, at least to a certain extent, incompatible. I will argue that discernment needs to be seen as a “practice of feeling with the world” (De Antoni and Dumouchel 2017), from which spirit ontologies and realities emerge as “meshworks” (Ingold 2013) of feelings of the living body corresponding with certain environments, humans and non-humans. By shedding light on how affects can shift the distribution of authority and responsibility in discussions on possession in ways that challenge dominant scientific analytics on illness, I will also argue that an account of demonic possession cannot be properly achieved if not relying on affective ethnographic methods.

Panel Speak01
Affect as cultural critique: somatic engagements with enchantment, creativity and play
  Session 1 Thursday 1 April, 2021, -