Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Oral Presentation Session
While navigating through energy disturbances created by Wi-Fi and high rises, and answering iPhones during possession rituals, the Mongolian shamans and spirits feel energized and inspired, rather than perplexed, by the materiality of urbanization and techno-modernization. Shamans in Mongolia have an exciting relationship with the material side of urbanization, but a conflictual relationship with the urban population’s perception of shamanism, and the administrative limits of modern cities. Shamanic practices have been in high demand. The urban populace, however, has been reluctant to incorporate shamans into the official everyday modern urban landscape. Studies on urbanism and tradition have noted the local population dealing with disruptive impacts of modernization on traditional communities. This paper explores the ways in which shamanism underscores cities as spaces of new affective entanglements, discursive charge, and concentrated and inconsolable anxieties, against the backdrop of streamlined roads, glass and steel buildings, and standardized addresses and street signs. The shamans’ experiences of exclusion as everyday members of the community and their struggle to become listed in institutional and bureaucratic registration add to this affective topography. Shamans and shamanic organizations, therefore, attempt to fit into the pre-given categories of “business,” “religion,” “NGO” and community organization in order to obtain official statuses. Urbanization created a market for shamanic services, while denying the shamans coevalness and belonging. This urban situation is different from the rural countryside, where the public and private spaces are less separated, and where a practice is not always a “business” or “work,” but a part of identity.