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Skill and Scale in Transnational Mediumship


This workshop zooms in on new communities of practice and enskilment that evolve around techniques of mediumship in an interconnected world. The increased mobility of people, organizations and media that take part in or reformulate trance practices and spiritual experiences has significantly widened the scope and outreach of adepts of trance, spirit possession and spiritual body arts. Their body techniques, symbols and artifacts play a major role in the re-organization of spirituality on site and the emergence of transnational spirited publics across time and space, co-producing the “local” and the “global” of religious and spiritual practice. 

Components of shamanic journeys, afro-Brazilian rituals, trance mediumship and mystic traditions circulate, compete and merge with each other and are often combined with “alternative” healing procedures and body sports, reshaping individual experiences and cosmologies, mediating scales and contexts of situated communities of practices. 

With this workshop we intend to bring together work on new communities of practices, which evolve around mediumship, spirit possession and trance rituals, by adressing how these practices are taught and learned, transformed and re-invented in different settings. In particular, we are intested in the discussion on „apprenticeship“ as a process of enskilment (Ingold) in context of co-participation that is increasingly transformed through technologisazion, standardization and interaction at a distance. Increasingly, people do not only co-operate across ‘social worlds’ (Strauss), they act simultaneously in different and only partially overlapping social relations. The communal practices of trance and mediumship do therefore not signify the existence of firmly established communities, rather communality has to be continuously produced through interaction. We invite participants to reflect upon how, under the condition of heterogeneity, spiritual sociality and a shared socio-material world is produced through the mutual recognizable production of practices and common situations among spirits, their mediums, experts and followers.