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Introduction

Anthropological Knowledge Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul

Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard

In this introduction, we propose a new approach to anthropological knowledge making that would observe the ‘hyper-reflexive’ quality of ethnographic exchanges. We show that anthropological ideas infiltrate themselves into the discourse of native thinkers, even as native ideas regenerate anthropological theory. Our starting point is ‘animism’, a key concept of anthropological theory. We suggest that anthropologists and their interlocutors jointly reinvent animistic ideas through a process we describe as the ‘reflexive feedback loop’, in which abstract ideas about practice and belief are appropriated and recirculated by research participants. By way of conclusion, we reflect on how anthropologists and their collaborators ‘animate’ soul concepts through diverse forms of agency such as metamorphosis, doubling, autobiographical narrative, hidden jokes, and even technological animism.

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The Algebra of Souls

Ontological Multiplicity and the Transformation of Animism in Southwest China

Mireille Mazard

In Nusu animism, the number and nature of a person’s ‘soul attributes’ change during his or her lifetime and after death. Drawing on Michael Scott’s study of Arosi poly-ontology, this article situates animistic personhood in a plural socio-cosmic order. Living and dead, human and non-human, Nusu and non-Nusu occupy separate, communicating domains. Meaningful exchanges across boundaries require the metamorphosis of persons and ideas. Nusu animism, continuously engaged in an ‘algebra of souls’, understands the self in terms of its multiplicity, its latent and emerging aspects. Through the ethnography of two death rituals—one ‘real’ and one staged for visiting researchers—this article shows that animism is being hyper-reflexively reinvented by Nusu animists themselves.

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A Theory of ‘Animal Borders’

Thoughts and Practices toward Non-human Animals among the G|ui Hunter-Gatherers

Kazuyoshi Sugawara

The term ‘animal borders’ refers to both the border between humans and animals and to that which demarcates the former according to stances toward the latter. The practices toward animals among the G|ui foragers inspire fundamental reflection on ‘animal borders’. Their mythical characters are personified animals. An invisible agency, translated as ‘to be affected’, permeates the G|ui everyday life. A complex code of food regulation is associated with this effect. Violating the taboo on specific meat may lead to madness that causes the imitation of animals. The G|ui pay particular attention to the messages from many ornithic species. The following ethnographic descriptions confirm the continuity of the G|ui corporeality with animal existence and further show the potentiality of metamorphosis. This scope requires a new understanding of ‘naturalism’.

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Recursivity and the Self-Reflexive Cosmos

Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian Spirit Mediumship Practices

Diana Espírito Santo

In this article, I explore how the cosmologies of two popular spirit possession cults—Espiritismo in Cuba and Umbanda in Brazil—exhibit forms of recursivity and self-reflexivity. Taking my cue from Don Handelman’s notion that the cosmos often contains its own logic of self-becoming, I argue that in these ethnographic cases, recursivity results from the interplay between, on the one hand, the spirits’ expression of their autonomy from living beings and, on the other, the spirits’ contingency for their effectiveness on human belief, representation, perception, and action. In Espiritismo and Umbanda, spirits intervene in human affairs unpredictably, throwing new light on anthropological and native conceptualizations of reflexivity.

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Camila Pastor de María y Campos

Framing current mobilization in the Middle East through the social metamorphosis of the last two hundred years underscores transformations afforded by the region's participation in the making of a global, institutional, productive, and ideological modernity. This paper explores the emergence of new social agents and the social movements they have sought and precipitated. Ottoman modernity was characterized by fierce debates and the emergence of new activities and public spaces, which afforded the mobilization of established and novel social agents. These debates were forcefully suspended by mandate administrations and their local collaborators. The process of decolonization in mid-century and the wave of revolutions that unfolded in its wake brought historically marginal sectors to power in much of the region, who institutionalized their own visions of the common good. This paper presents a critical overview of the forms mobilization has taken in the region over the past decades-the social landscape and the dynamics of mobilization that have afforded the revolts and revolutions unfolding today. Finally, I discuss coverage of the uprisings in the Arab and international online press, pointing to synergies and gaps evidenced in interpretations of women's participation in the riots and the Islamist presence in postrevolutionary consolidation processes.

Spanish Al enmarcar la movilización actual en el Medio Oriente a través de la transformación social de los últimos dos siglos destacan los cambios que hicieron posible la participación de la región en la creación de una modernidad global institucional, ideológica y productiva. El texto explora el surgimiento de nuevos actores sociales y los movimientos sociales que han buscado y precipitado los cambios. La modernidad otomana se caracterizó por sus debates acalorados y el surgimiento de nuevos espacios y actividades públicas que facilitaron la movilización de actores sociales nuevos y viejos. Estos debates fueron suspendidos por las administraciones mandatarias y sus colaboradores locales. El proceso de descolonización de mediados del siglo XX y la ola de revoluciones que se produjeron en su estela llevaron a sectores históricamente marginados al poder en gran parte de la región, quienes institucionalizaron sus propias visiones del bien común. El texto presenta una mirada crítica de las formas adoptadas por la movilización en las últimas décadas, el paisaje y la dinámica de movilización social que hacen posibles las revueltas y revoluciones que tienen lugar hoy día. Para concluir, se discute la cobertura de las revueltas en la prensa virtual árabe e internacional, señalando como puntos de encuentro y desencuentro las interpretaciones de la participación de las mujeres en las revueltas y de la presencia islamista en los procesos de consolidación posrevolucionaria.

French L'analyse des mobilisations populaires actuellement en cours au Moyen-Orient à travers les métamorphoses sociales survenues dans les deux siècles derniers, met en évidence les transformations offertes par la participation de la région dans la réalisation d'une modernité globale institutionnelle, productive et idéologique. Le document explore l'émergence de nouveaux acteurs sociaux et les mouvements sociaux qu'ils ont poursuivi et précipité. La modernité ottomane a été caractérisée par des débats houleux et l'émergence de nouvelles activités et espaces publics qui facilitaient la mobilisation des acteurs sociaux établis et nouveaux. Ces débats ont été suspendus par les administrations mandataires et leur collaborateurs locales. Le processus de décolonisation au milieu du vingtième siècle et la vague de révolutions qui se sont déroulés dans son sillage ont mené secteurs historiquement marginaux au pouvoir dans une grande partie de la région, mêmes qui ont institutionnalisé leurs propres visions du bien commun. Le document présente un aperçu critique des formes pris par la mobilisation dans la région au cours des dernières décennies, le paysage social et la dynamique de mobilisation qui ont possibilité les révoltes et les révolutions qui se déroulent aujourd'hui. Pour conclure, je discute la couverture des soulèvements dans la presse virtuelle arabe et internationale, en soulignant comme points de divergence et synergie les interprétations autour de la participation des femmes dans les insurrections et la présence islamiste dans les processus de consolidation post-révolutionnaire.