Accepted Paper:

Between the Self and the Other: the interpretation of bodily experiences  

Author:

Ehler Voss (University of Bremen)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation traces different conceptions of body, soul, the Self and the Other among mediumistic healers in Germany as well as in anthropology and argues for a phenomenology of otherness which is grounded in the assumption of an otherness of experience itself and which promises a new understanding of bodily experiences in religious contexts.

Paper long abstract:

Unusual bodily experiences are often the decisive factor for conversion and the main reason for faith among the contemporary mediumistic healers in Germany I have researched. Their practices are often oriented towards evoking perceptions outside ordinary ways of experiencing. The interpretation of such experiences leads to questions concerning the conceptualizing of the body and the soul, and thus "the Self" as well as leading to the question of the relation between "the Self" and "the Other".

The emic discourse of the mediums as well as the etic discourse of anthropologists about experiences in religious contexts ocillates between finding the origin of such experiences inside and outside the Self. On the one hand "Spirits", "Energies" and similar things are seen as autonomous entities affecting the Self, while on the other hand they are seen as having originated in the Self through projections of the unconcious or through imagination.

Even some phenomenological approaches which actually aim to conceptualize experiences beyond dichotomies such as inner and outer or the Self and the Other, like the much cited approach of Thomas Csordas, tend to entangle themselves in such dichotomies and tend to trace back experiences of the Other as having originated in the Self.

This presentation traces different emic and etic conceptions of body, soul, the Self and the Other and, against this background, argues for a phenomenology of otherness which is grounded in the assumption of an otherness of experience itself and which promises a new understanding of bodily experiences in religious contexts.

Panel W011
Body and soul: on corporeality in contemporary religiosity