Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness 37th Annual Conference 

2017 Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness 37th Annual Conference 

Date: March 29 — April 1, 2017
Location: California Institute for Human Science 

701 Garden View Ct.  Encinitas, CA 92024 

You must register before submitting your abstract. 

Register here  and Submit your Abstract by January 31, 2017

Registration Prices:

Member Advanced Reg: $150

Member One-Day (onsite): $50 

Non-member Advanced Reg: $170

Non-Member One-Day (on-site): $70

Student Member Adv. Reg: $80

Student Member One-Day (onsite): $25

Student Non-Member Adv. Reg: $100

Student Non-Member One-Day (onsite): $25

Questions? Please contact Program Coordinator Brian Bartelt at


SAC 37th Annual Conference Call for Papers

​Call for Papers

SAC 37th Annual Conference

March 29th – April 1st

Encinitas, CA

Transforming Energy into Action
The concept of “subtle energy” is fundamental to many of the esoteric principals and spiritual beliefs that have been part of our world’s cultures since time immemorial.  Variously called qi (chi), mana, prana, chakra, wakan, keyoi, holy spirit, cosmic ether, life force, etc., these traditions emphasize that all things, including humans, are made up of a network of complex energies and energetic fields.  The theme of the 2017 conference concerns the diverse ways in which these subtle energies can be manipulated or transformed and the significance of these practices to the world today.
We invite papers, panel proposals and workshops on topics such as:
Rituals, spiritual traditions & techniques that transform consciousness

Transformative healing and other energy healing modalities

Phenomenology and subtle energy research

Transformative power of myth and archetypes

Entheogens and psychoactive substances

Dreams and the transpersonal

Liminal states

Mind-body interaction / Interface between spirit and matter

Shamanism as a path of transformation

Anomalous human abilities (clairvoyance, psychokinesis, levitation, etc.) 

Addiction and altered states
We also invite submissions of artistic works and experiential workshops that explore the interrelationships among subtle energy, consciousness and healing.  Suggestions for experiential workshops include, but are not limited to: subtle energy and creative expression, sound therapy, trance-inducing music and dance, qigong, tai chi, kirtan, chakra balancing and guided meditation.
Proposals for individual papers, panels, workshops and special events should be submitted by December 18th, 2016 to  Registration fees should be paid to AAA before submitting abstracts (we will notify you when registration link is active). If your paper is not accepted, you may request a refund of your registration fees. Submissions will not be accepted unless registration is completed by the submission deadline. Acceptance notifications will be sent by January 13th, 2017.
Limit: one paper or presentation per person, unless prior approval has been obtained from the Program Chair. Session organizers may submit individual papers for inclusion in their sessions. Please indicate whether you will require audio-visual equipment for your presentation. A projector, screen and laptop will be made available.
HOTEL REGISTRATION: The 2017 conference will be held at the California Institute for Human Science in Encinitas, CA.  Conference participants can stay at the nearby Encinitas Inn & Suites at Moonlight Beach.

Please contact the reservation desk and mention that you are with SAC to receive a special room rate: (760) 942-7455
Questions? Please contact Program Coordinator Brian Bartelt at


Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness Session

Saturday, November 19

4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 103D

Session Description: Inspired by the circus-like, propaganda filled 2016 American presidential election, this panel aims to richly describe how power structures use evidence to influence the consciousness of large groups. While evidence is often thought of as a set of objective “facts”, evidence can be highly manipulated through media channels to influence thoughts and behaviors. This panel will answer the following questions: What is the relationship between evidence, propaganda, the media and consciousness? How is evidence culturally constructed? How does propaganda influence groups? And how, in turn, can consciousness affect evidence? Finally, this panel will describe what the subjective/objective aspects of evidence and its connection to propaganda means for us as citizens, researchers, and practitioners. This panel is gonna’ be HUUGE!

Organizer: Mark Flanagan Piedmont Hospital Cancer Center

Chair(s): Mark Flanagan Piedmont Hospital Cancer Center  &  Bryan Rill The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong

Discussant: Bryan Rill The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong


Propaganda and Healthcare

The Influence of Propaganda on Vaccination Decision-Making

What a Great Party! the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong

Propaganda As Evidence; Political Unrest in Brazil

“Za Dom Spremni”: Collective Memories and Contested Pasts Among Croatian War Veterans

Discussant: Bryan Rill


Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness Invited Session

Saturday, November 19

8:00 AM – 9:45 AM

Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 101H

Session Description: Responding to the theme of the 2016 AAA meetings, this panel explores dreaming in and of the field as ‘evidence, accident, discovery.’ How can we begin to make sense of the enigmatic significance of dreaming as a component of both fieldwork and the subsequent process of interpretation? Are some projects more dream-intensive than others? In what ways may dreams bleed through or haunt our waking hours in the field? If dreams, as Stefania Pandolfo has written, “are never one’s own,” then from what location in the intersubjective space of fieldwork do they speak? And why should dreaming remain somehow a suspect, even slightly scandalous idiom of ethnographic experience? There is a longstanding anthropological tradition of accounting for the meaning of dreams ‘in other cultures.’ We propose a different kind of question: how to make sense of dreams as symptoms –auguries, anxieties, returns – of the ethnographic encounter itself. Papers will prompt reflection on themes such as dream interpretation as an art of government; the productive untimeliness of dreams vis-à-vis ethnographic experience; the fictive status of dreams vis-à-vis the presumed ordinariness of field encounters; ethnographic moments that might just as well have been dreams; the forms of self-confrontation vis-à-vis our ethnographic choices that dreams may prompt; waking attachments to external signs of dreaming in states that hover between life and death; and the need to rethink the conventional critical trope of collective awakening in the face of infrastructures that, as they decay and unravel, disclose unexpected and ambiguous dream worlds.

Organizer & Chair: William Mazzarella University of Chicago

Discussant: Stefania Pandolfo University of California, Berkeley


Out of Context, Everything Is Extraordinary

“the Master Down There,” or the Politics of Dreams

Milk of Amnesia: Coma and the Limits of Living

‘dreams Need Money…after Seven in the Morning’

After-House / Dream-House

Discussant: Stefania Pandolfo


Society for Psychological Anthropology Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness Invited Session

Friday, November 18

4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Session Description: One of the central observations of psychiatric anthropology is that specific conditions (depression, schizophrenia, panic) present with somewhat different symptom profiles in different social worlds. There have been a number of ways to describe this phenomenon. Hacking called it “looping” (see too Seligman and Kirmayer), Csordas “the sensory mode of attention,” Desjarlais and Throop “modes of existence,” and Kirmayer, most recently, “enacting.” A recent volume by Hinton and Good, Culture and Panic Disorder, edited by Devon Hinton and Byron Good, shows how these looping processes play out for panic disorder. Another edited volume by these same editors, Culture and PTSD explores the complex fit between the DSM-5 understanding of trauma and the way in which PTSD appears in different social settings, and the way that broader socio-emotional concerns like “ontological security” shape the salience and expression of symptoms. All these approaches suggest that phenomenological experience is always the result of the interaction between expectation, cultural invitation, spiritual practice and bodily responsiveness. This panel explores this phenomenon using the “kindling” concept to theorize cultural variation in bodily expression. The “kindling” hypothesis was first articulated by Emil Kraepelin, who observed that to the extent that actually demoralizing events—a job loss, a breakup, a bad relationship—play a role in a first episode of depression, they play a less important role in later ones. If someone has ever been clinically depressed, it takes less in terms of real life knocks to lead them into depression a second time. Becoming depressed becomes a habituated response. Cassaniti and Luhrmann suggested that the kindling phenomenon could arise when the local culture served a similar function in a religious setting in shaping the way people attend–what they sense and feel in search of evidence of the spiritual and lowering the threshold of its identification through the body. More specifically, we suggested that some phenomena are more responsive to kindling than others. We suggested that: First, a phenomenological experience is an interaction between cultural invitation and bodily physiology. By “cultural invitation” we mean the implicit and explicit ways in which a local social world gives significance and meaning to sensation, whether mental or bodily, and the behavioral practices (like meditation) that may affect sensation. Second, when a local social community gives significance to specific sensations, either fearing them or desiring them, sensitivity to having an experience of the supernatural increases, requiring a lower threshold for such experiences, than in a community in which people do not have such supernatural experiences and in which such fears and desires are hypocognized or unelaborated. Third, the more (or less) that the experience of the supernatural is associated with a specific physiology (like sleep paralysis) the more (or less) the frequency of the event will be constrained by an individual’s vulnerability to these experiences. The panels offers a wide variety of different examples to discuss the best way of understanding this phenomenon.

Organizers: Tanya Luhrmann Stanford University & Devon Hinton Harvard Medical School

Chair: Devon Hinton Harvard Medical School

Discussant: Laurence Kirmayer McGill University, Canada


Julia Cassaniti Weighted Idioms: Categories of Lightness and Heaviness in Thai Spiritual Phenomenology 


Cordelia Erickson-Davis Kindling a Sense of Presence: Lessons from Virtual Reality

Pablo Seward Delaporte A Comparative Critical Phenomenology of Drug Addiction Among Mestizos in the Upper Huallaga Valley, Peru

Jeffrey Snodgrass Fostering Emotional “Immunity” to Terror and Trauma: Ritual As a Source of Health Resilience for Indigenous Indian Conservation Refugees

Devon Hinton Supernatural Assaults Among Cambodian Refugees with PTSD: Nightmares, Sleep Paralysis, Hallucinations, and Migraine-like Auras

Discussant: Laurence Kirmayer


Friday, November 18

5:15 PM – 5:30 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Presenting Author: Devon Hinton Harvard Medical School

Cultural frames influence radically the experiencing of such disorders as trauma, panic disorder, and schizophrenia. In this talk, I will show how cultural frames shape the Khmer experiencing of trauma, leading to a great emphasis on supernatural visitation. I will show how the symptoms generated by trauma (nightmares, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and migraine-like auras) are interpreted by Cambodians as spiritual assault and visitation, leading to a trauma ontology in which these are key aspects of distress and meaning. This is the lived phenomenology of trauma. As recently reviewed by Cassaniti and Luhrmann, cultural frames can have a profound effect on the experiencing of distress and may lead to ontologies in which “supernatural experiencings” are more salient; they refer to this process as the “kindling of supernatural experiencing.” In this paper I will try to demonstrate how supernatural experiencing occurs among Cambodian refugees from the interaction of the biology of trauma, cultural frames, and looping processes, what we call a “Bio-Cultural Model of the Interaction Between Supernatural Experiencing and PTSD.” It is model that takes into consideration biology, symptom hypervigilance, symptom meaning, symptom amplification, catastrophic cognitions, cultural frames, and looping. In sum, it tries to explain “kindling” in terms of multiple types of processes that result in supernatural assault and visitation being common among traumatized Cambodian refugees.


Friday, November 18

4:30 PM – 4:45 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Presenting Author: Cordelia Erickson-Davis  Stanford University

 Presence, or the sense of “being there,” is frequently invoked in descriptions of religious experience (e.g., the “presence of God”), unseen others (e.g., Third Man Syndrome) or one’s self (e.g., to feel fully present in the moment). Rather than a mere sensation, presence can be considered an existential feeling, or a way of finding oneself in the world (Ratcliffe, 2005). Furthermore, feelings of presence can be seen within the framework of “kindling” – the manifestation of interaction between bodily constraint and cultural invitation (Cassiniti & Luhrmann, 2014). For example, Luhrmann (2010) found that in contemporary Christian prayer practice, those with a proclivity toward absorption were more likely to report a stronger sense of the presence of God. Presence is also readily invoked in the world of virtual reality, where it is used to measure the immersiveness of a virtual environment. Virtual reality allows for the creation of complex, controlled environments in which one can manipulate specific sensory content and observe their effects on perception, including the sense of presence. It is thus a valuable tool for exploring kindling and existential feelings. I will discuss an ongoing study in which we use virtual reality to explore the interaction between sensory experience and absorption in creating a sense of presence. It will be considered as an example of what it means to enact an experimental approach in social science research.


Presenting Author(s): Julia Cassaniti Washington State

Friday, November 18

4:00 PM – 4:15 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

In this paper, I will explore how people in a small community in Northern Thailand kindle spiritual experience through culturally elaborated idioms of weight. I will show how positive, sought-after spiritual feelings felt in meditation are often described as ones of lightness (in Thai: bow) and emptiness (wang plao), and even sometimes to floating or flying. In contrast, negative and avoided spiritual experiences are characterized by a feeling of heaviness, such as in the commonly reported phenomenon of sleep paralysis (in Thai known by the spirit of Phi Am). Attending to the ways that idioms of weight among these Northern Thai Buddhists are used to make sense of spiritual phenomenology, and to the ways that these labels may ‘kindle’ experiences of them through the lowering of sensory thresholds, may help us to understand how some religious feelings on and in the body come to be reported more often in some cultural contexts than in others. Here I will report on how these weighted idioms play out in personal religious practice, and point to their connection with locally elaborated theories of mind. In doing so I argue for the broadening of conceptual categories in the cross-cultural study of spiritual experience.


Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness Invited Session

Wednesday, November 16

4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 200H

Session Description: This session hopes to provide a critical examination of the observations of Consciousness by examining the neuroscientific & physical basis of the mind & consciousness. How do we observe consciousness, whether our own or the consciousness of others? The anthropologist’s own consciousness is a necessary tool for observation. An openness to perceiving the improbable seems a prerequisite for the scientific study of consciousness. At the very least, to be capable of observing consciousness in any meaningful way, we as anthropologists have to be open to observing the improbable experiences of others. So much of consciousness studies focuses on examining extra-ordinary experiences which offer insights into the ordinary human experience. How important are serendipitous experiences and events to anthropologists who study consciousness? How might our understanding of our data as an outside observer differ from the insider understanding of the same information? What happens when we blur the line between the outside and inside perspectives through participation and native ethnography? Many anthropologists studying consciousness find experiencing rare forms of consciousness appealing. How does this inform their research and their findings? This panel presents anthropological papers addressing how the presenters observe and document consciousness in their own research. It opens up an interdisciplinary dialogue for addressing consciousness as it relates to matter and the tangible; the seen and unseen. Presenters draw on interdisciplinary perspectives combining anthropology with psychology, neurology, statistics, and physics. The panel will interrogate the role of rigorous science and experiential knowledge in the study of consciousness. Asking, how do we know when we’ve got evidence of consciousness?

Organizer: Sydney Yeager Southern Methodist University

Discussant: el-Sayed el-Aswad United Arab Emirates University, United Arab Emirates

Sydney Yeager Perceiving the Improbable: Anthropological Serendipitous Insights to Math and the Hard Sciences


Kelsey Armeni– Using Contemplative Practice As a Methodology to Study Non-Ordinary States of Consciousness


el-Sayed El-Aswad Discussant


Open Business Meeting & Keynote Address by Stanley Krippner

Saturday, November 19
7:45 PM – 9:00 PM
Minneapolis Convention Center, Room: 101G

Please join SAC for our annual business meeting and keynote speaker.

The SAC Business meeting will inform and engage the audience in the future of SAC as it moves into new media and expands its reach globally. Following this will be a keynote presentation by Stanley Krippner, a renowned scholar whose work has inspired psychological and consciousness research for decades.