"Spirits are the Problem": Anthropology and Conceptualising Spiritual Beings
This paper examines a variety of different theoretical perspectives on the nature of spiritual beings from within the discipline of anthropology. It takes a broadly historical perspective, outlining the development of key approaches from the earliest pioneers to the present day. It is argued that reductive explanatory models fail to account for the complexity of spiritual beings as social agents, especially in the context of the author's own research into contemporary trance mediumship. It is suggested that an ontologically open-minded participatory approach to the nature of spiritual beings, that emphasises the processes involved in their manifestation, represents a potentially fruitful direction for future research.
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