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Accepted Paper:

Frictions and enchantment: On the epistemic authorityof spiritual guides  
Aja Smith (University of Southern Denmark)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the enactments of epistemic authority of guides teaching spiritual leadership in contemporary Denmark, examining the frictions and contradictions performed by followers, and asking what kinds of enchantments these technological, affective and performative assemblages enact?

Paper long abstract:

In the last couple of decades, spirituality and leadership have become coupled explicitly by business and spiritual gurus (e.g. Sharmer 2010, Droiun 2018, see also Salamon 2007). In contemporary Denmark, the ideas of leadership enclosed in these couplings involve not only the leading of organisations and people, but also of the self and one's own life (Smith 2017). Here, people striving for spiritual leadership use spiritual technologies to explore themselves kinesthetically, sensorially, cognitively and emotionally and through these exploration, they enact relations with potential future selves.

The spiritual gurus and guides assisting these explorations play special parts in the enactments; they mobilise scientific and border scientific (Wolffram 2009) pieces of evidence to underpin efficacy and value of spirituality, they become overshadowed by spirits, move and talk mindfully, quote spiritual masters from indigenous traditions, affectively affect their followers by honing in on own and followers' pain, and they teach followers different spiritual techniques. This assemblage of technologies and performances underpins not simply followers' self-explorations, but also the authority of spiritual guides.

With this paper, I explore the enactments of epistemic authority and the motions of perceptions and experiences at the margins of this authority performed by followers. Motions which seemingly support the authority, yet which at close inspection emerge as full of frictions and contradictions. I ask, what kinds of enchantments are enacted through the assemblages of spiritual technologies, scientific evidence, the affective and kinesthetic performances of guides and followers, not least in the frictions and contradictions of it all?

Panel P105
Mobile materials and technologies of enchantment
  Session 1 Thursday 16 August, 2018, -