Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: American Ethnological Society
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those Involved in Mentoring Activities
Primary Theme: Health
Secondary Theme: The Visual
This panel asks about the “work of travel,” in which we include diverse forms of spatial practices such as tourism, pilgrimage, journey, adventure, but also storytelling and the circulation of concepts, beliefs, practices, and cultures that occurs in New Age spiritualism in the Americas and other world regions. We conceptualize “new age spiritualism” not as a new religious movement or type of cult per se, but rather as a milieu of spiritual seeking by persons and groups pursuing unorthodox, alternative and otherwise not institutionally organized religion most often associated with diverse forms of healing (corporeal, social, spiritual). It is not one but rather an amalgam of diverse religious movements, cults, spiritual practices, religious beliefs, and communities (stereo-)typically (but not exclusively) associated with religiously disaffected persons from white, middle class USA. The arrogant ignorance and naïve violence of many of these spiritualities is often critiqued as white or plastic shamanism by Native North Americans. However, “not white” but not “Indian” that is mestizo, ethnic-cultural “mixed,” or otherwise hybrid spiritualists and whose healing (whether “medical” or “spiritual”) are not at all viewed as “fakes” and “false” but all the more true and powerful for being “mestizo.” More than one ethnographer–“gone native” have apprenticed to (or converted to become) a culturally appropriate Indigenous shaman. Further, there are transcultural or inverted “not quite white” shaman Indians who assume the role, script, and ritual practice created by Western gnosticisms, romanticism, exoticization, and promise of redemption by the Noble Savage whose clientele can be a variable mix of Indigenous communities, national non-Indigenous urbanites, and international spiritualists that are often specifically or generically gnostic. What are the cultural contexts and sociopolitical dynamics that situate such diversity of practices of spirituality/religion? How are the implicit or overt critiques valid there but not here? What are sociopolitical groundings of the ascriptions of validity, roles, performances, and experiences within this plurality? If cultural appropriation is multidirectional and ongoing, is this transculturation or syncretism and conversion in an expanded senses? On the one hand, panelists interrogate the idea of transcultural appropriations as a value judgment about the inherent travel and mobility of spiritual beliefs, objects, symbols, experiences, ideas, and practices across and through different “cultures.” On the other hand, panelists explore the multi-directionality of travel of persons to attain spirituality and of spiritual experts to consumer-practitioners of their practices. How are ideas of Imperialist Nostalgia, religious colonization, hybridity/hybridization, transculturation, pilgrimage, shamanism, spirituality, reverse conversion useful to understand particular cultural configurations of mixed spiritualities/healing situated in travelogical borrowings and adaptations?