538 - Shamanisms in Movement

19.07.2012 | 08:00 - 13:30
19.07.2012 | 17:30 - 19:30

Convener 1: Langdon, Esther Jean (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina , Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil / Brasilien)
Convener 2: Anne-Marie Losonczy (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-Sorbonne, Paris, France / Frankreich)

Recent studies of transnationalization have shown that reshaping of the «religious» linked to migratory processes and routes has created «geographies of the sacred» extending beyond national borders. However, there is a lack of analyses of the phenomena of transnational mobility related to therapeutic and/or religious experiences, for which globalized practices and discourses covered under the term «shamanism» present a privileged field for study. Whether inspired by re-invented ethnic traditions or a “shamanism” that functions as psycho-therapeutic, esthetic and ideological reference among certain urban circuits of the North and South, increasing numbers of people travel long distances to perform or attend rituals, workshops, and curing sessions. These practices are connected to regions emblematic of shamanism - Siberia and Latin America. On the American continent, shamanism has also become integral to the discourses of identity and juridical vindications of autochthonous peoples.

A number of queries orient our reflections of this emerging field.

How are we to understand and study shamanism today? As a set of vernacular practices propagated by mass media or a product of a historical process of labeling exotic customs, commercialized today on a transcontinental scene? Is there continuity between shamanism used as a commercial, ideological and political label and shamanism understood as a comparative analytical category accounting for a particular modality of giving meaning to the world by explaining misfortunes and accidents? Is it best conceived of as a process of ritual bricolage in which the mobility and circulation of actors, practices and discourses operate on a regional as well as a transcontinental scale?

We examine the implications of considering these diverse practices as part of the same phenomena. Is there a “core shamanism” that remains unchanged in spite of the multiple transformations of scale and diversity and sustains negotiations of the meaning of evil and of exchange between culturally and socially distant groups? Notions such as «translation» (Carneiro da Cunha, 1996) or «dialogical category» (Langdon & Rose, 2010), among others, aid our examination of the articulation between continuities and ruptures within the ritual field labeled «shamanic». Our reflection is relevant to the place and specificity of these plural shamanisms in the religious, spiritual and therapeutic markets, including the status of the shamanic label in the Nébuleuse New Age as well as their expression in Catholic or neo-Protestantism contexts.

Finally, we explore the «therapeutic-religious geographies» which cross national and continental borders, reordering regions and territories formerly considered as peripheral and backward in the symbolic hierarchy of places and peoples according to the logic of progress. We will investigate the role of the religious and therapeutic in overturning symbolic social hierarchies established by national and international modes of Colonialism.

Keywords: Shamanism, therapeutic-religious geographies, transnational mobility, contemporary ritual practices

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