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Introduction to “Do Spirits Exist? Ways to Know”

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Given various studies both within and without anthropology that treat spirits and extraordinary beings as products of mind, culture, and physiology, the goal of this special issue is to entertain a different stance and to examine how we might know that spirits exist. This introduction to the special issue focuses on the meaning of encounters with spirits, other extraordinary beings, and hidden views of the world, including the dilemmas these experiences may raise and the kinds of inquiries that can assist our understanding of how we know that spirits or other worlds exist. The issue includes five articles by three anthropologists, a folklorist and scholar of religion, and a psychiatrist. A final discussion about “ways of knowing” and means of inquiry, as well as a critique of the articles, is presented by Edith Turner.
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Keywords: anthropological perspectives; experiential validation; inquiry and epistemology; science as method; spirits

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Human Evolution and Social ChangeArizona State UniversityCorrespondence: 2753 Bon Haven LaneAnnapolis, MD 21401

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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