During fieldwork on a contemporary revival of shamanism in Buriatiia in the summer of 2005, I was initially puzzled by what I had witnessed. The spirits that were embodied by the shamans were interacting with the audience. Afterward, the shamans did not remember what had occurred while they were in trance. To me, it resembled what has been described as spirit-mediumship performance. While discussing this with shamans, their initial response was that Buriat shamanism is real shamanism, insisting that authentic trance is unconscious, while at the same time dismissing other forms as fake. Later, however, some quietly admitted that Buriat shamans used to be able to remember their ecstatic journeys, and eventually they will be able to regain this ability. I argue that the post-trance amnesia among the contemporary Buriat neo-shamans is the result of the disruption caused by the Soviet anti-religious legacy, which inhibited Buriats to progress to higher degrees of initiation.
Shamanic Sickness, Spirit Embodiment, and Fragmentary Trancescape in Contemporary Buriat Shamanism
The Kardecist-Spiritist Disobsession in Brazil
Sidney M. Greenfield
This essay examines a ritual called a 'disobsession' by Brazilian Kardecist-Spiritists, discussing how it might affect the biophysiology of the patient and provide more than symbolic assistance. In the ritual, mediums enter into trance, communicate with and/or receive spirits, and engage in exchanges with them, while the patient being treated merely observes. Since the sufferer is not knowledgeable about the Kardecist belief system, an analysis that assumes shared values, contexts, and systems of semiosis between healer and patient does not apply. I argue instead that the participants are in a trance-like, hypnotic state during which they respond as do patients treated elsewhere with hypnotically facilitated psychology or hypnotherapy. While not necessarily aware of it, during the ritual they internalize beliefs about the powers of spirits that may be transduced to produce proteins that activate the immune and other bodily systems, thereby contributing to their cure.
Exploring Cosmopolitan Competences
Emil Abossolo Mbo and Cassis Kilian
Since global interdependencies are a feature of urbanisation, Kwame Anthony Appiah's pleading for an education in 'cosmopolitan citizenship' is forward-looking. Given increasing mobility, handling different urban rhythms is as important as dealing with different languages. Actors explore how airports, supermarkets and cemeteries react to gait, respiration and heartbeat and how people adopt or impose rhythms. Such investigations might appear superficial from an academic perspective, but they bear resemblance to ethnographic fieldwork.
We (an actor and an anthropologist) refer to the shift from participant observation to collaboration proposed by George Marcus, and conjointly explore rhythmic aspects of urbanisation, which are difficult for scholars to grasp. Our aim is to expand anthropological concepts, methods and forms of representation. In reference to Paul Stoller, we consider acting methods a 'sensuous scholarship' and argue that rhythm allows us to explore preverbal aspects of feelings of belonging or alienation in the urban space.
Gender, Sovereignty and Insecurity in Richard Marsh's The Beetle
On its publication in 1897 Richard Marsh’s The Beetle was more popular than Dracula. However, in the latter part of the twentieth century its popularity with both readers and critics waned, and it is only now that Marsh’s story of the Egyptian beetle-creature seeking vengeance on a British politician is attracting renewed critical interest. It is not my intention here to take serious issue with any of these important and revealing critical discussions, which variously explore the novel in terms of fears over ‘reverse colonisation’; depictions of the ‘abhumanness’ of the female body; and cultural debates on the nature and significance of trance-states. Rather, I wish to open up discussion of the novel by identifying some of the important and peculiar features of this – admittedly very peculiar – novel, that have not so far received the attention they deserve. These thus-far critically neglected features include: the significance of the opening chapters’ emphases upon vagrancy and destitution; the novel’s exploration of ‘political authority’ and its ambivalence towards its central male character, the liberal politician; and the representation of the New Woman. More specifically I wish to investigate the historical and ideological motivations for what I consider to be the novel’s conflation of its New Woman character with the figure of the emasculated and vagrant clerk.
Artificial Light, Hypnagogia, and Quality of Sleep in Dracula
Karen Beth Strovas
In a cross-disciplinary investigation of lighting technology and sleep science, I strive to illuminate the ways in which Victorians under the seductive influence and increasing availability of bright city light saw night as a useful space and time. Stoker's Dracula (1897) is a crucial text for examining change in late Victorian nightlife because one of the key determinants of power and powerlessness in Dracula is in the way the body rejects or succumbs to the instincts of sleep. First, I analyse the late nineteenth-century social and medical opinions surrounding technological advances in artificial lighting in order to ascertain the significance of light's apparent effect on Victorians' sleep patterns and sleep quality. Second, I liken the descent from wakefulness into sleep, a state called 'hypnagogia' in sleep science, to the vampiric state of the undead. Dracula holds his victims within the hypnagogic trance to assert his power over them in their weakened and liminal consciousness. My study concludes that Stoker writes men as both strong and weak in their resistance to sleep, and the women as reliant upon the sleep deprivation of men for health and life.
Jens Kreinath and Refika Sariönder
reached its peak, following the ever–increasing speed of the saz music, a woman and a man were thrown out of balance by their own fast movements. Beating her arms wildly, the woman screamed “Allah! Allah!” and went into a trance. The man began to turn