Accepted Paper:

Spirited away: affective correspondences and the emergence of spirits in contemporary Japan  


Andrea De Antoni (Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the role of affect and perception in spirit possession in contemporary Japan. It argues that spirits can emerge through practice, "affective correspondences" among humans and non-humans, as well as institutionalization, through which meaning is entangled with the affective.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the role of affect and bodily perceptions in experience of spirit possession and exorcism in contemporary Japan. I will build on the concept of affect proposed by Massumi (2002), while integrating it with the notion of "correspondence" (Ingold 2013), in order to elucidate spirits' emergence by looking at perceptions of bodies moving in the world and to "somatic modes of attention" (Csordas 1993). I will try to elaborate an approach that includes "culture"/locality specific aspects of practices and experiences, with a particular focus on institutionalization.

In order to do so, I will rely on ethnographic data collected in Kenmi Jinja (Tokushima Prefecture, Japan), a Shinto shrine renown because of a ritual to heal especially from possession by the Dog-God (inugami). I will provide a description of people's feelings of being possessed and healed, thus shedding light on the bodily perceptions through which these conditions emerge.

I will argue that possession and spirits in contemporary Japan do not have to be understood as self-standing phenomena, but as assemblages in which bodily perceptions play a major role. I will argue that spirits can emerge through (ritual) practice, as well as through a whole set of "affective correspondences" among humans and non-humans. In doing so, I will highlight the fundamental role that the institutionalization of these correspondences plays in the entanglement of symbolic, "cultural" specific aspects with the affective dimensions of experience.

Panel MB-SSR07
The ontological turn: new ethnographic approaches, theories and analysis of spirit mediumship, shamanism, religious ritual and discarnate phenomena