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Accepted Paper:

Viral anthropology: humanity and divine parasitism among Dechen Tibetans   
Giovanni da Col (SOAS)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore the conceptualization of worlds and alterities which threatens to contaminate and dissolve the same notion of humanity. It will begin with the anthropological problem posed by the mysterious Dechen Tibetans' accounts about poisoners 'inhabited' by a poison-god (dug lha) and killing guests or even their own kin by parasitising upon their vitality and fortune until their death, happening months or years after the contamination. Drawing on Wagner's analogic kinship, Serres' pre-eminence of parasitism in the logic of exchange, and Levi-Strauss' late interest in topology in his Petite Mythologiques, the paper will show how the phenomena cannot be accounted as a mere witchcraft or sorcery 'belief' and take SERIOUSLY the Dechen Tibetans' statement that 'the poisoner and the poison-god share one vitality'. Exploring the aetiology, symptomatology and logic of exchange between the poisoner, the poison-god and their victims the paper will problematize the relationship between humanity and non-humanity and explore the onto-ethologies, intercorporealities, Umwelts and overlapping spheres of exchange where subjects and objects are not bounded entities occupying a place, nor sites of imaginary extensions, but determined topologically according to the vital flows they generate and draw upon. The paper will end by proposing the relevance of topological and viral/parasitic models for the anthropological analysis of 'other' worlds and reflect on how all great dichotomies like essence vs. appearance and mind vs. body points to the problematic relationship between interiority and exteriority, between what is considered to be the 'inside' and the 'outside' of something.

Panel W003
Crises, crossings and other worlds: exploring the invisible, the liminal and the virtual
  Session 1