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Talk: psychic surgery in Filipino Spiritism

October 15, 2018 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Spirits in a New Age: Philippine Centers of the Global Esoteric

In the variegated landscape of Filipino paranormal practice, one phenomenon garnered worldwide attention in the last quarter of the twentieth century: psychic surgery.  A form of spiritual healing in which the practitioner, or espiritista, usually male, operates on the body of the patient without anaesthesia and using only his hands, psychic surgery achieved particular renown in the United States in the 1980s when celebrity practitioners of New Age spirituality like Shirley MacLaine spoke publicly about their experience with Filipino psychic surgeons.  This paper provides a broad historical outline of the religious movements in the twentieth-century Philippines that culminated in the convergence of American New Age spirituality and Filipino Spiritism seen in the example above.  It pays particular attention to the axial shift from Espiritismo (the science of communication with the dead codified by French educator Allan Kardec that made its way to the Philippines at the turn of the twentieth century), to transpacific New Age movements, charting this shift through key figures, objects, writings, and forms of expertise that circulated between Spain, the Philippines, and the United States.  


Deirdre de la Cruz will be speaking on paranormal practice in the Philippines and its global resonance.  An anthropologist by training, Deirdre is Associate Professor in Asian Languages and Culture and in History at the University of Michigan. She is director of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History.


Sponsored by: Carolina Asia Center, Southeast Asian Approaches


October 15, 2018
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm


Carolina Asia Center
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