UpComing Deadline – Call for Managing Editor for Anthropology of Consciousness Journal

Anthropology of Consciousness

The Executive Board of the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness is now inviting applications for Managing Editor of its peer-reviewed journal, Anthropology of Consciousness. Interested applicants should submit a CV, a written statement specifically addressing the qualification criteria listed below and her/his vision for how the journal might evolve. Please send all materials to Beth Savage, SAC Secretary/Treasurer at savagebetha@gmail.com Final selection will follow an interview, preferably before or at the 2018 SAC Spring Meeting in Palo Alto.  Co-Editors encouraged to apply! The three-year term begins August 1, 2018.

Qualifications for Anthropology of Consciousness Managing Editor:
Demonstrated interest in and knowledge of SAC’s areas of research and scholarship. Experience and knowledge in publishing, editing, and journal administration. Excellent written and oral communication skills. Higher degree in anthropology or closely related field. Proven record of refereed publications.
Ability to work with a digital publishing platform. Excellent interpersonal skills and experience supervising staff.

Anthropology of Consciousness is grounded in anthropology, and produces a comprehensive body of literature in both new and established topical areas. A  distinct and highly valued feature of the journal is its interdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary appeal to academic authors, contributors, and readers from anthropology as well as from psychology, sociology, alternative and complementary medicine, and phenomenology.  An overarching goal of SAC is to increase the impact and exposure of the journal across anthropology and the other human sciences.

Working arrangements:
Must be available for a three-year term of appointment.

Must meet strict deadlines to produce two issues of the journal annually.

Must have a computer updated to current standards and software.

Works closely with Associate Editors/peer-reviewers and an Assistant Editor.

Training provided, preferably before term begins to overlap with current Managing Editors.

Volunteer position with reimbursement for journal-related costs.

Attendance at AAA annual fall meeting expected, with some travel and lodging

Organizational or financial support from editor’s institution or organization helpful.

100% working remotely.



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

4:45 PM – 5:00 PM

Hilton, Room: Salon B

Presenting Author: Pablo Seward Delaporte Stanford University

Among low-income mestizo peasants of the Upper Huallaga Valley in the Peruvian Amazon, addiction and collective psychological trauma are concretely tied by a recent history where political violence and illegal cocaine production were part of the same process. I use results from a pilot study in the Upper Huallaga Valley from July to September 2016 to evaluate the degree to which the phenomenology of addiction may change in cases where addiction and collective trauma are not only comorbid but also constitutive of each other. Building on the kindling theory of experience, I assess the claims that cultural invitation and collective trauma enable mestizos to attend more to certain aspects of the experience of drug addiction than others and that this results in an experience of addiction that is different from those reported in other cultural contexts. I hypothesize that, first, experiences of addiction among mestizos in the Upper Huallaga Valley will be different because of specific cultural models of the body and mind, possibly what other anthropologists working with mestizo and indigenous communities in the area have identified as a container metaphor of the body and an unstable or fluid model of the mind. Second, I hypothesize that the particular form of collective trauma among mestizos in the Valley will also shape experiences of addiction. Preliminary results of my summer fieldwork will be used to evaluate the degree to which a consideration of particular historical and political processes is necessary for a kindling theory of experience.


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.

You Are the Mountain: Modeling Religious Experience in Light of Cognitive Neuroscience

Bryan Rill (Florida State University)

In recent years insights from cognitive neuroscience have led anthropologists to reconsider constructs of culture and experience. Neuroanthropology now provides evidence that patterned practices have the capacity to recondition the brain, thereby affecting how people not only conceptualize but also experience the world. Such conditioning occurs both in the realm of cognition and in a deeper symbolic substructure. Theorists such as Damasio and Merleau-Ponty refer to this substrate as “core consciousness” or the “pre-objective body,” respectively. The argument for experiential relativity has profound implications for the study of experience, particularly those of ritual and religion. Through patterned practices, embodied symbols reshape perceptual reality both culturally and biologically. In this paper I present a nuanced version of Peircian semiotics to model how deeply conditioned symbols influence and are in turn influenced through experience. As an example, I examine the ineffable aspects of religious experience in Japanese mountain asceticism. By conceptualizing the interaction between symbols, consciousness, and experience as a feedback loop, I show that in the “world” –or phenomenological reality—of religious practitioners, religious or mythological symbols are experienced as very real and immediate. This framework brings new meaning to Malinowski’s assertion that myths are lived realities, and has the potential to help resolve the tension between phenomenology and semiotics in anthropology.   [Originally Published in the AAA 2013 Conference Program]