the anthropology of altered states
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The Anthropology of Altered States. Psychological Anthropology (Transpersonal anthropology). relationship between altered states of consciousness and culture. transpersonal psychology: altered states of consciousness (ASC) and transpersonal experience

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psychological anthropology transpersonal anthropology
Psychological Anthropology(Transpersonal anthropology)
  • relationship between altered states of consciousness and culture.
  • transpersonal psychology: altered states of consciousness (ASC) and transpersonal experience
    • differs from mainstream transpersonal psychology: cross-cultural
  • role of culture in laying the foundations for, in evoking, in cultivating or thwarting, and in interpreting ASC
    • fundamental to understanding the incidence and function of transpersonal experiences
altered states of consciousness
altered states of consciousness
  • conditions in which sensations, perceptions, cognition, and emotions are altered
  • characterized by changes in: sensing, perceiving, thinking, feeling
  • modify the relation of the individual to self, body, sense of identity, the environment of time, space, or other people
  • induced by modifying sensory input
    • directly by increasing or decreasing stimulation or alertness
    • indirectly by affecting the pathways of the sensory input by somotopsychological factors
features of altered states
Features of Altered States
  • alterations in thinking
  • disturbed sense of time
  • loss of control
  • changes in the expression of emotions
  • changes in body image
  • perceptual distortion
  • changes in meaning and significance assigned to experiences or perceptions
  • a sense of the ineffable
  • feelings of rejuvenation
  • hypersuggestiblity
some types of alerted states
Some Types of Alerted States
  • Trance
  • shamanistic ecstasy
  • prayer ecstasy
  • sorcery
  • "highway hypnosis"
  • Hypnosis
  • alcohol / drugs
  • yoga / meditation
  • dream states
  • Culture bound syndromes
stimulation consciousness
Stimulation & Consciousness
  • a decrease form a presumed preexisting "normal" level of stimulation or activity
      • highway hypnosis
      • sensory deprivation produced either experimentally or as a result of solitary confinement
  • involves an increase form a presumed preexisting "normal" level of stimulation or activity
      • religious conversion
      • healing trances in revivalistic settings
      • "dance and music trance"
      • battle fatigue
      • hysterical conversion neuroses
      • dissociational states
      • mob contagion
  • increase of alertness or mental involvement
    • prolonged vigilance or sentry duty, watching a radar screen, fervent prayer
  • decrease in alterness or mental activity
    • relaxation of critical faculties in daydreaming, boredom, profound relaxation, mediumistic trance, meditation states
stimulation consciousness7
Stimulation & Consciousness
  • ‘somatopsychological’ factors
    • drug-induced states
    • states resulting from other changes in body chemistry
cross cultural observations altered states
Cross-Cultural Observations & Altered States
  • diagnosis and healing
  • divination and reading signs
  • Dreaming and dreamworking
  • Trance as evolutionary variable
    • significance in human life derives from the symbolic transformation of experience and the capacity to share intrapsychic states.
    • Unlike dreams, ASC derive from models based on pathological states
    • serve as coping mechanisms for both the individual and the society and thus provide a basis for culture building.
power self
Power & Self
  • two forms of possession:ritual and peripheral
    • ritual is displayed in a ceremonialcontext and includes the social function of reinforcing culturalmorality and established power.
    • peripheral representsa more long-term state in which the individual believes thathe is unwillingly possessed by intruding spirits and functionsas an indirect form of social protest
  • Ritual possession operates as a socially sanctionedpsychological defense mechanism, while peripheral possessionconstitutes a pathological reaction to individual conflict.
alterations the state
Alterations & The State
  • legal and illegal
  • emphasis on the relationship between these alterations and the individual body, the social body, and the body politic
  • Economies of alterations (political economy)
  • motivations behind the development and global marketing of both legal and illegal alterations
  • policy
  • psychological normalcy
  • demographics of legal and illegal use
  • historical shifts in the legal/illegal distinction itself.
deviance society
Deviance & Society
  • Modes of action which do not conform to the norms or values held by most of the members of a group or society.
  • What is regarded as 'deviant' is as widely variable as the norms and values that distinguish different cultures and subcultures from one another.
  • Many forms of behaviour which are highly esteemed in one context, or by one group, are regarded negatively by others.
  • abnormal types in the social structure are culturally selected by all groups from every part of the world
  • different degrees of ease with which abnormals function per each culture
  • many abnormals function with ease and even honor without danger to the society
deviance and conformity
Deviance and Conformity
  • Social constructions
  • idealized conduct is most clearly seen in marginalized people
  • deviance forces them into "discredited" or "discreditable" groups, based on the nature of their stigma
  • deviance & the existence of a stigma
normality abnormality
  • Multi-dimensional concepts
    • Represents a range of possible perceptions
      • Of what is normal and not normal
      • Whether it is controlled or not by the norms of society
  • Times & places people can behave in an abnormal way
  • Most cultures disapprove of forms of public behavior that are obviously not being controlled
zones of social behavior18
Zones of social behavior
  • Not static, fluid categories, spectrum of possibilities
    • Change with time & circumstance
    • Normal in one group – abnormal in another
  • Controlled normality (A)
  • Uncontrolled normality (D)
  • Controlled abnormality (B)
  • Uncontrolled abnormality (C)
zones of social behavior19
Zones of social behavior
  • A, D, B – it is assumed that the individual is at least aware of what the social norms are
    • Whether they conform or not
  • Substance use
    • Traversing the categories of “bad” and “mad”
    • Criminal & Intoxication
    • Temporary madness
  • Altered States:the cultural and social politics of subjectivity
the anthropology of the senses
The Anthropology of the Senses
  • Comparison & relativism
    • “diverse sensory SYMBOLISM and experience
    • study of the senses out of the realm of natural history into that of social history
      • does not deny the natural history of the senses -- the general process of sensorial experience and its natural processes
  • able to break the mould of our own sensory bias & experience radically different ways of making sense of the world
the anthropology of the senses21
The Anthropology of the Senses
  • the particular & the general
  • sensory journeys through time and space
  • dominant sensory medium of symbolic orientation can vary widely -- can only be understood in the context of a particular society & not through generalized external sensory paradigms
    • Tzotzil of Mexico – heat
    • Ongee of Little Andaman Islands – smell
    • Desana of Columbia -- color & multi sensory, chromatic energy flows
    • dominant sensory symbolic order of west -- seeing & hearing
      • one kind of visuality (to picture) & one kind of aurality/orality
  • “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” (Shakespeare)
anthropology of the senses
Anthropology of the Senses
  • “Western” conceptual framework of typical/ “normal” sensory experience
    • From confusion to order
    • Developmentally through repetition and habit
    • Physically through neurochemical processes
    • Through new sensorial skills
    • desire to avoid vague sensations
  • OR, another: To perceive the true substance of the world beyond sensory & mental habits
  • All bodhisattvas, lesser and great, should develop a pure, lucid mind, not depending upon sound, flavor, touch, odor, or any quality. A bodhisattva should develop a mind which alights upon no thing whatsoever; and so should he establish it. (Diamond Sutra 10)
participant observation altered states
Participant-Observation & Altered States
  • Cross-cultural experience & altered states as a psychosis – observations vs. participant observation
  • Sorcerer’s apprentice
  • Going native
  • Trust and science
one popular consciousness vision version
One ‘Popular’ Consciousness Vision/Version
  • field expedition to Mexico or someplace ‘other’
  • observe the rituals of an isolated Indian tribe, who are said to preserve ceremonies that go all the way back to the Toltecs or some ‘other’ ancients
  • rituals involve the consumption of a potion made with powerfully hallucinogenic mushrooms
  • not content merely to observe, but an active participant
  • unifying theme emerges in hallucinations -- the origin of life, the origin of the Earth, the origin of thought, the origin of humanity.
  • opened up a kind of physiological pathway that gives access to the vast untapped recesses of his genome
    • the primitive, atavistic genetic heritage of humankind’s most distant ancestors that lies inactive at the center of his every cell
styles of alcohol use as social practice
“Styles” of Alcohol Use as Social Practice
  • A “style” of alcohol use is not:
    • a psychological manifestation of the individual nor only determined by environment
  • “Style” as social practice
    • “expressive equipment” or “social capital”
    • Available for the production of subjectivity (self & identity)
  • “universe of stylistic possibilities”
    • represents differing ways to “craft self” and be a “person”
  • Alcohol use is a social and cultural practice some find useful in the context of a set of ongoing social relations