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Volume 6

Studies in Social Analysis

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Animism beyond the Soul

Ontology, Reflexivity, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge

Edited by Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard

160 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-865-6 $95.00/£67.00 Hb Not Yet Published (April 2018)

ISBN  978-1-78533-866-3 $27.95/£19.00 Pb Not Yet Published (April 2018)

eISBN 978-1-78533-867-0 eBook Not Yet Published

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How might we envision animism through the lens of the ‘anthropology of anthropology’? The contributors to this volume offer compelling case studies that demonstrate how indigenous animistic practices, concepts, traditions, and ontologies are co-authored in highly reflexive ways by anthropologists and their interlocutors. They explore how native epistemologies, which inform anthropological notions during fieldwork, underpin the dialogues between researchers and their participants. In doing so, the contributors reveal ways in which indigenous thinkers might be influenced by anthropological concepts of the soul and, equally, how they might subtly or dramatically then transform those same concepts within anthropological theory.

Katherine Swancutt is a Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London. She is the author of Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination (Berghahn 2012). Her main area of interest is Inner Asia, and she has conducted fieldwork among Buryat Mongols, Deed Mongols, and, more recently, the Nuosu of Southwest China. A major theme running through her work has been the rise of innovative religious practices, especially among animistic or shamanic groups.

Mireille Mazard is a postdoctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Ethnic and Religious Diversity. She received her doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology in 2011 from the University of Cambridge, where she explored ethno-politics and Nusu identity in Southwest China. She is currently writing a monograph about religious and political transformations among the Nusu, which explores their engagement with Christian and Communist ideologies in creating new ontological frameworks for experiencing the world.

Subject: General Anthropology Religion


Foreword: The Anthropology of Ontology Meets the Writing Culture Debate—Is Reconciliation Possible?
Rane Willerslev

Introduction: Anthropological Knowledge Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul
Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard

Chapter 1. The Algebra of Souls: Ontological Multiplicity and the Transformation of Animism in Southwest China
Mireille Mazard

Chapter 2. Recursivity and the Self-Reflexive Cosmos: Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian Spirit Mediumship Practices
Diana Espírito

Chapter 3. Santo Spirit of the Future: Movement, Kinetic Distribution, and Personhood among Siberian Eveny
Olga Ulturgasheva

Chapter 4. The Art of Capture: Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China
Katherine Swancutt

Chapter 5. Narratives of the Invisible: Autobiography, Kinship, and Alterity in Native Amazonia
Vanessa Elisa Grotti and Marc Brightman

Chapter 6. Technological Animism: The Uncanny Personhood of Humanoid Machines
Kathleen Richardson

Postscript: Anthropologists and Healers—Radical Empiricists
Edith Turner

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