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"Blow up The Outside World. Comparing Experiences with Spirit Possession in Contemporary Japan and Italy Through Affective Correspondences and Embodied Memories"

Talk by Andrea de Antoni, Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Ritsumeikan University (Japan)

06.09.2019 | Mia Korsbæk

Dato ons 18 sep
Tid 10:00 12:00
Sted Anthropology Dept, Moesgaard Alle 20, Aud 1 4206/117

Andrea de Antoni, Professor of Anthropology and Religious Studies at Ritsumeikan University (Japan), will give a talk in the Department of Anthropology at Moesgaard on Wednesday 18 September (10-12), Aud 1 4206/117:

"Blow up The Outside World. Comparing Experiences with Spirit Possession in Contemporary Japan and Italy Through Affective Correspondences and Embodied Memories"



This talk tries to move towards a comparative perspective on phenomena of possession in contemporary Japan and Italy, in an attempt to “capture that moment of transcendence in which perception begins, and, in the midst of arbitrariness and indeterminacy, constitutes and is constituted by culture” (Csordas 2002: 61). On the one hand, experiences of possession have been analysed in relation of “internalizing” or “externalizing” medical systems (e.g. Young 1976, Kirmayer 2004), emphasising healers’ roles in shaping patients’ experiences according to existing ontologies. On the other, experiences with spirits have also been analysed as not confined to ‘event’ formats, emerging as “meshworks” of specific feelings and perceptions of the body moving-in-the-world, through “affective correspondences” with the environment (De Antoni 2017). In this paper, while relying on ethnographic data about experiences with spirits among people who undergo Roman Catholic exorcism in contemporary (Central) Italy and Shinto exorcism in contemporary Japan (Shikoku), I will focus on the symptoms from which the border between spirits perceived as external or as internal emerges. I will try to combine the two above-mentioned approaches, shedding light on processes of ontogenesis. While comparing the spectrums of symptoms of experiences with spirits in the two contexts, I will analyse the role of “embodied memories” of certain symptoms or feelings, and how they can be “transmitted” (Kidron 2011). I will argue that a comparative analysis of what feelings are embodied, ‘remembered’ and transmitted, what kinds of perceptions and skills contribute to the emergence of spirits as internal or external, and on how such entanglements shape ontologies and institutions, can shed new light on the efficacy of medical and religious/spiritual healing.


Andrea De Antoni (Ph.D.) is associate professor of anthropology and religious studies at Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto, Japan) and main editor of the Japan Anthropology Workshop (JAWS) Newsletter. He is author of Going to Hell in Contemporary Japan: Feeling Landscapes of the Afterlife, Othering, Memory and Materiality (Routledge, forthcoming 2020), editor of Death and Desire in Modern and Contemporary Japan (Venice University Press, 2017, with M. Raveri), of “The Practices of Feeling with the World: Towards an Anthropology of Affect, the Senses and Materiality” (Special Issue of Japanese Review of Cultural Anthropology, 2017, with P. Dumouchel), and “Feeling (with) Japan: Affective, Sensory and Material Entanglements in the Field” (Special Issue of Asian Anthropology, 2019, with E. Cook). He is also the coordinator of the international research network “Skills of Feeling with the World: Anthropological Research on the Senses, Affect and Materiality,” based in Ritsumeikan University.


When: Wednesday 18 of September, 10-12. 

Where: Anthropology Dept, Moesgaard Alle 20, Aud 1 4206/117,

Antropologi, Seminar