The notion of human personhood in most cultures extends beyond the individual and their material existence. This panel will explore ethnographic approaches to relations between individual personhood, material and immaterial forms of existence.
The tendency to see the individual as a material bounded entity with discrete boundaries, including the boundaries of a physical lifespan that defines a person as an individual, is largely a recent Western construct. We wish to invite proposals that explore the various ways people in many cultures, including Western ones, have expanded the notion of the individual, and of personhood to include relations with non-material entities and a life that goes beyond the boundaries of a single lifespan. The topics addressed can include relations with non-material entities; the nature of non-material worlds; forms of communication, including mediumship, clairvoyance, shamanic journeying, meditation, out of body experience, spirit possession and healing. We invite approaches that are ethnographic and experiential Papers might include discussion of appropriate methodologies, ethical issues and ontologies. They might also tackle questions concerning personhood, consciousness, the mind and body, and their relation to materiality.