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Fertile DisorderSpirit Possession and Its Provocation of the Modern$
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Kalpana Ram

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780824836306

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824836306.001.0001

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Possession and Emancipatory Politics

Possession and Emancipatory Politics

(p.252) Chapter 9 Possession and Emancipatory Politics
Fertile Disorder

Kalpana Ram

University of Hawai'i Press

This chapter examines the agency of spirit possession and mediumship as “resistance” to power or as “empowerment.” Drawing on bodily “morphology” and feminist theory, it considers agency as an intricate combination of the conscious and the habitual, where freedom relies on the integration of the past offered by the habitual. It first explores processes of gradual adjustment and incorporation that are most easily associated, under modernity, with unfreedom, addiction, and the loss of autonomy—that is, with conditions from which emancipation must be sought. It then turns to the relationship between possession and modernity within the context of emancipatory and left-liberal politics. It also looks at the debates, controversies, and challenges faced by feminists in India regarding their political assumptions about agency, along with Pierre Bourdieu's concept of the habitus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty's account of the “body of habit.” Finally, it discusses the reach and fundamental sweep of human agency by citing examples such as pietist Islam and revolutionary Marxism.

Keywords:   agency, spirit possession, modernity, emancipation, emancipatory politics, Pierre Bourdieu, habitus, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Marxism

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