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This panel will deal with anthropological research of agency and agents in present day "post-secular" ontologies including New Age beliefs and practices. We will explore how these beliefs and practices transgress or revitalize "traditional" religious ontologies, disciplinary norms, and discourses.
Today, many anthropologists criticize usefulness of "religion" as an analytical concept. It is considered to be shaped by modern European and Christian culture. The opposition of religious and secular when employed for studies of non-European and non-Christian cultures seems to make understanding of the latter even more problematic. This criticism seems to be mostly true. However, it is possible to refer to another analytical perspective provided by present day cognitive science of religion and ontological anthropology. Here, in particular, we are invited to study religious ideas and practices in terms of agency attributed to both human and non-, semi-, or superhuman participants of ritual process. "Semiotic ideologies" that underlie religious practices proceed from close connection between cognitive statuses of partners in communication, the value of information, and modes of its transmission. This panel will deal with anthropological research of agency and agents in present day "post-secular" ontologies including New Age beliefs and practices, contemporary folklore, etc. Aliens, "ascended masters", and other agents New Age practitioners deal and communicate with are no less culturally and psychologically important than gods, spirits and ancestors, so it seems really valuable to look at how both human and non-human agency is created, represented, and transformed by New Age rituals, practices and techniques. We will explore how communication with these agents transgress or revitalize "traditional" religious ontologies, disciplinary norms, ideologies, and discourses.