|Book Chapter Category||Textbook (chapter)|
|ERA Publisher ID||2349|
|Book Title||The international encyclopedia of anthropology|
|Number of Pages||9|
|Publisher||John Wiley & Sons|
|Place of Publication||Oxford, United Kingdom|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1578|
|Web Address (URL)||https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1578|
In many societies around the world, spirit possession is a multifaceted phenomenon. It causes ill-health and suffering, is a source of knowledge regardingways of tackling social and health problems, and constitutes modes of collective remembering. In the expert literature, spirit possession is diversely referred to as altered states of consciousness, or dissociation or dissociative states. According to specific social circumstances, spirit possession is experienced as constructive in that it can provide healing resources; it is destructive in that it can cause serious health and social afflictions; and it can also be uncertain by encapsulating positive and negative experiences at once and over time. In the 1960s and 1970s sociological approaches reduced spirit possession to symbolic forms of power struggles. It was argued that disadvantaged groups, particularly women, attempted to redress their precarious condition by means of spirit possession (Lewis 1971). Anthropologists have spent lengthy periods of time conducting ethnographic studies of spirit possession in numerous societies and have suggested that the diversity of the phenomenon makes it difficult to capture in a single approach and definition.
Thus, anthropologists and other social scientists tend to use definitions that are consistent with the type of spirit possession that is prevalent in a particular society at a specific point in time, whereas others have applied multidisciplinary approaches in search of complex understandings.There are, however, points of departure that any student, expert, or media professional must consider when engaging with the topic. Spirit possession is an embodied phenomenon which nevertheless transcends the individual and becomes part of group dynamics (Stoller 1995). It flourishes in societies that cultivate the belief that an individual’s body and action can be influenced and controlled by deities and spirits. Spirit possession manifests in ritual practice and in everyday life. In these contexts and for the people involved, spirits are real and are regarded as persons (Lambek 1981). Spirits are inseparable fromparticular social attitudes to death and particular historical circumstances of death (Kwon 2008). Research conducted in numerous societies consistently confirms that both men and women are afflicted by spirits; however, women are the principal focal point of possession trance. Because of gaps in reporting the identity of the spirits, the literature offers a less clear picture regarding the gender of the spirits. Recent case studies conducted in specific war-torn communities show, however, that afflicting spirits tend to be male (Igreja et al. 2010). In social theory, spirit possession has continuously animated debates and analysis regarding the potential and limits of human intentionality (also referred to as 'human agency').
|Keywords||epidemiology; ethnography; health and social afflictions; medical anthropology; religion; religious practices; social epidemiology; spirit possession|
|ANZSRC Field of Research 2020||440107. Social and cultural anthropology|
|430399. Historical studies not elsewhere classified|
|489999. Other law and legal studies not elsewhere classified|
|500402. Comparative religious studies|
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|Byline Affiliations||School of Arts and Communication|
|Institution of Origin||University of Southern Queensland|
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