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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

AAA, Sight unseen, invitation

Dear colleague,
Enclosed is the first draft of the abstract for a panel that we are
proposing for the American Anthropological Society meetings in Montreal
that will be held Nov. 16-21, 2011. We warmly invite you to join us! If
you are interested in participating, please send an abstract of 250 words
or less to Deirdre Meintel and Véronique
Béguet Our abstracts follow that for the panel.
Jean-Guy Goulet will be the discussant for the panel.

If you would like to participate, we ask that you contact us as soon as
possible and send us your abstract (with key words).

If our panel is accepted, partipants are required to register for the
meetings on the AAA website ( ). The final
date is April 15, but we plan to finalize the session by April 1, given
the travel commitments of the authors in early April, not to mention the
logistical and technical difficulties that sometimes arise close to the

Please note that participants can submit only one paper abstract for the
AAA meetings.

Sincerely yours,

Deirdre Meintel and Véronique Béguet

Call for Papers
AAA Annual Meeting 2011

Panel: Sight Unseen: Contact with the Invisible in Secularized Societies

In this session, panelists will the relations with the invisible in
Western societies. Though secularization has often been thought to have
effaced concerns with spirits and with the unseen in general, in fact, we
note a resurgence in beliefs and practices related to what is diversely
termed as the "world of spirit", the "paranormal" and so on. The works of
scholars such as Tanya Luhrman, Marion Aubrée, Meredith McGuire and others
indicate that relations with the invisible are part of daily life for many
in North America, Great Britain, France and other societies characterized
by institutional secularization.

The broad focus of the panel includes invisible aspects of human beings
and the world they inhabit; e.g. invisible entities (spirits, angels,
guides, beings of light, auras, energy fields etc. etc.) and the
practices associated with them (trance, possession, exorcism,
mediumship...) Though well known to anthropologists, these topics are more
often studied in other types of society, and occasionally, among migrants
from those societies to North America and Western Europe. This panel is
aimed at exploring relations with the invisible as well as the concepts
and methods used to study them. It is intended to be forum for exchange
between researchers working in the anthropology of religion, ontological
anthropology, « anthropology of the afterlife » (Fiona Bowie) and and
other fields.


Deirdre Meintel
Université de Montréal

Title: Spirits in the City

Direct contact with spirits is part of normal everyday reality for many
people in the city of Montreal, situated in the province of Quebec,
Canada. Spiritualists describe contact with a plethora of spirit entities
that comes about by various means. Even those who do not experience such
themselves often believe that others around them do; e.g., members of the
same spiritual group, mediums they know, and so on. Many consider urban
spaces –homes, in particular – as the habitat of spirit entities with whom
it is possible to interact. Such entities may be evil spirits, benevolent
ones or « lost souls » trapped on the earth plane, unable to move on to
the world of spirit without help. Many cases I will present here concern a
Spiritualist congregation that I have followed for many years. Others come
from a team project on contemporary religious currents in Quebec that I
have been directing for the last five years.

Key Words: spirits, possession,exorcism, urban life

Véronique Béguet
Université de Québec à Trois Rivières

Title: An « Ontological » Anthropology of Experiences of the Invisible
among Canadians

In this presentation, I explore the experiences of the invisible
(sensations, visions, voices, out of body experiences) of Canadians
(mainly Quebecois) and the meaning they give to them. The interpretations
my informants give for these happenings draw on a vast symbolic store of
meanings available in Western societies and at the same time are nourished
by direct experience. Unseen beings (the dead, beings of light,
guides...) and invisible dimensions of human beings (energetic bodies and
paranormal abilities) are invoked to explain such experiences. Such
explanations mobilize notions of being that constitute alternatives to
rationalism and materialism. Ontological anthropology, a theoretical
current that developed out of new readings of animism, appears fruitful
for giving account of my informants' experiences and the interpretations
they offer for them. An important influence on my approach is Tim Ingold's
notion of "attentive engagement".

Keywords: experience, the invisible, ontological anthropology, Western

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