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Accepted Paper:

Steps to an Ecology of Spirits: Doing Ethnography about Spirits and Possession in Contemporary Japan as a Practice of Feeling with the World  


Andrea De Antoni (Kyoto University)

Paper short abstract:

In this presentation, I focus on experiences with spirits in contemporary Japan, including my own. I argue that a focus on feelings emerging through correspondences with certain environments can create legitimate ways to analyze and express people's (including researchers') experiences with spirits.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I propose an ecological approach for an understanding of the emergence and becomings of spirit entities, as well as of the social life that they acquire and elicit (Blanes and Espirito-Santo 2013). In order to do so, I will focus on ethnographic data about experiences with spirits in contemporary Japan. I will firstly provide a quick overview of the "symptoms" of spirits, ranging from cases of haunting to cases of spirit possession, thus showing the central role played by affects and bodily perceptions. Subsequently, I will introduce and reflect on my own experiences in the field, especially while undergoing exorcisms, shedding light on similarities and differences with other people's accounts. I will argue that experiences with spirits can be usefully understood as emerging from specific feelings of the lived body corresponding with certain environments through practice, or as emerging from "practices of feeling with the world."

I will suggest that carrying out ethnographic fieldwork about spirits can also be understood as such. Consequently, I argue that a methodological focus on micro-interactions between humans and non-humans, as well as on feelings that emerge through correspondences and attunements with certain environments can provide a useful way to analyze people's (including researchers') experiences. Such approach, therefore, can also contribute to the elaboration of new and useful ways to express (researchers') experiences with spirits in the 'academic field,' while also opening possibilities for the production of new legitimate 'scientific' knowledge.

Panel P115a
Other Worlds, Other Bodies?: Ethnography, Experience and Epistemological Embodiment