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P115b
Other Worlds, Other Bodies?: Ethnography, Experience and Epistemological Embodiment
Convenors:
Emily Pierini (Sapienza University of Rome)
Alberto Groisman (UFSC-Brazil)
Chair:
Diana Espírito Santo (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Discussant:
Diana Espírito Santo (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile)
Format:
Panels
Time zone:
UTC+1
Sessions:
Friday 24 July, 11:00-12:45

Short abstract:

This panel addresses the plurality of spiritual experiences of people who recognise the existence of other worlds that may intersect or not with the material or physical world. It discusses how researchers may express their own experiences of embodiment in the academic field.

Long abstract:

When ethnographers approach the plurality of spiritual manifestations and experiences of the people who participate in their research, they often note that these people recognise the existence of other worlds that may intersect or not with the so-called material or physical world. However, these other worlds are often approached as phenomena of 'culture' or the 'mind', questioning in this way these native ontologies. Many ethnographers end up reifying these experiences as 'symbolic'. The projection of personal experience onto a symbolic dimension may be the outcome of a resistance to embodying 'mysticism' in their lives or professional trajectories, which is a 'rationalist' way of approaching these other worlds from the standpoint of a science that seeks an epistemic homogeneity. A symptom of this resistance to 'mediumistic incorporation' and more generally to a phenomenon considered to be spiritual, are spiritual experiences categorised as 'paranormal'. Beyond being an ethnographic and methodological inconsistency, approaching the 'spiritual' as 'paranormal' reflects an epistemological resistance to recognising ontological multiplicity as a condition for ethnographic knowledge. This panel discusses how researchers may find ways to legitimately express their own experiences of embodiment in the 'academic field'—reflecting in particular upon 'epistemological embodiment', or how these experiences may impact their conceptions of science and knowledge and how they are produced. These reflections can make the dialogues and coexistence between researchers and their research participants more fluid, fruitful and symmetrical, as well as they may inform ethnographies able to tackle spiritual experiences which problematize conventionalisms and homogeneities.