Trance Mediums and New Media
Ongoing debates about the “return of religion” have paid little attention to the orgiastic and enthusiastic qualities of religiosity, despite a significant increase in the use of techniques of trance and possession around the globe. Likewise, research on religion and media has neglected the fact that historically the rise of mediumship and spirit possession was closely linked to the development of new media of communication. In order to invoke the transcendental, to make otherworldly beings and powers appear, trance mediums need to make dispositions and take great care in preparing a setting conducive to their work of mediation. Their equipment includes technical media, apparition and apparatus are linked through ritual techniques. Likewise, the discourses and the imaginary of trance mediumship powerfully anticipated and shaped technical media such as photography, cinema, the telephone, and television. Spirits and their mediums served as the media a priori for the ‘‘invention’’ of these technical media: spirits were able to ‘‘telesee’’ and ‘‘telehear’’ long before television and the telephone existed. Inquiry into trance mediumship, therefore, forms an interpretative key to understanding technical media, and vice versa.
Keywords: Heike Behrend, Martin Zillinger, Trance, Spirit possession, Mediumship, Media and religion, Religion studies, Media, New media, Media anthropology, Spirituality, Ecstatic practices, Ciné-trance
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