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Chinese Religions Seminar featuring Vincent Goossaert – Social Networks of the Gods in Late Imperial Spirit-Writing Altars
March 21 @ 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm
Speaker: Vincent Goossaert, Professor of Daoism and Chinese Religions, École Pratique des Hautes Études
Chinese social life is saturated with interactions with entities other than living humans – ancestors, suffering souls, gods, animal spirits… A wide repertoire of ritual techniques regulates these interactions; some of them, aim at limiting those with dangerous entities, but this talk is interested in those that instead aim at cultivating mutually beneficial relationships. By exploring both narrative and ritual sources from the modern era (16th-20th century), we will see that these ritual techniques promote a process of subjectivation in both humans and non-humans. It is as subjects that humans and their usually invisible interlocutors can form bonds and social networks. We will see, through the case of spirit-writing cults, how Social Network Analysis (SNA) extended to spirits allows us to think afresh the question of the status of non-humans in China and beyond.