An open access piece forthcoming in a special issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, and available now online, will interest AHP readers: “Ritual futures: Spirit mediumship as chronotopic labor,” by Emily Ng. Abstract:
This essay reflects on the still-present difficulty in approaching contemporary rural mediumship as coeval with their urban psychotherapeutic counterparts. Drawing on ethnographic work in rural Henan province in central China, I describe how both rurality and spirit mediumship have been rendered anachronistic through national imaginaries, anti-superstition campaigns, and psychiatric discourses. The essay centers on the case of a spirit medium located in the psychiatric unit, and the social evolutionary and developmentalist temporalities condensed in her cultural psychiatric diagnosis. I then turn to the medium’s ritual work and cosmological account, which invert mediumship’s position in space and time. The essay approaches mediumship’s rituals as a form of chronotopic labor, which reworks the spatio-temporal coordinates they inherit from within. It closes by bringing together the conundrums of rural mediumship and those of urban psychotherapeutic and diasporic worlds, to consider psychic landscapes of dislocation, and other formulations of futures to come.