International Conference Sapienza in Trance: Healing, Cooperation, and Imagination

12-14 September 2023 Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Deadline: 𝟏𝟓 𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐲 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟑

Organized by Marie Skłodowska-Curie THETRANCE-Transnational Healing: Therapeutic Trajectories in Spiritual Trance Sapienza University of Rome, Department of History, Anthropology, Religions, Arts, Performing Arts (SARAS), and HEAL-Network for the Ethnography of Healing.

Free event open to the public, in person and online.

Trance states, whether defined as mediumistic or spiritual, sit on the edge of different fields of study and domains of practice. As they are variable, they escape fixed categorizations and so they often lend themselves to clashing interpretations, often resulting in representational or pathological reductionism. Yet, healing practices based upon trance, meditation, visualization, or imagination are increasingly present in our societies entering the spheres of therapeutic pluralism as complementary or alternative therapies. In this conference, we explore ethnographic notions of trance along with healing practices considering the contexts of therapeutic pluralism and the more or less successful experiences of healing cooperation, as much as its hindrances. In a joint effort between anthropologists, scholars of religion, psychologists, practitioners in the field of spiritual healing, we ask:
How can we unpack phenomenologically the experiences of trance to uncover its therapeutic aspects? Can these therapeutic aspects be considered transversally across the domains of spirituality and biomedicine? In terms of efficacy, at which levels may trance be considered therapeutic activating endogenous mechanism? How should we consider imagination and embodied knowledge in the therapeutic process?
How do different actors in the field of healing envision pathways to cooperation? To what extent could ‘cooperation’ be a useful paradigm to address different modalities of encounter? Could it conceal or rather unveil potential epistemological clashes and hierarchies of knowledge?
What kinds of symptoms, conditions, or unease, lead people to experiment with these healing practices? How are these therapeutic processes integrated with other therapeutic practices (biomedical, psychological, etc.)?
In contexts of therapeutic pluralism, how is “trust” understood and articulated in and between different healing practices and in relation with the biomedical one?How can we as social scientists produce trustworthy outputs that allow the audience to approach healing practices in a critical and ethical way?
What is at stake politically in terms of the legitimation of power related to the uses of these practices? What kinds of cultural capitals are constructed through these processes of legitimation?
How does the construction of this cultural capital shape the emergence of new practices and territories of contested ownership?

● KEYNOTE: Thomas Csordas (University of California San Diego)
● Research panels
● HEAL Network Workshop: Pathways to Healing Cooperation. Roundtable with anthropologists, practitioners of healing and psychotherapists
● Visual Ethnography workshop: Visual approaches to healing cooperation in mental health convened by Roger Canals. Film screening: Harmoni: Healing Together (2021) by Erminia Colucci
● Book launch: Other Worlds, Other Bodies: Embodied Epistemologies and Ethnographies of Healing, edited by Emily Pierini, Alberto Groisman and Diana Espírito Santo (2023, Berghahn)

Paper proposals:
Research papers proposals must include: name, contact details (email and affiliation), title of the presentation, a 250-word abstract, and modality of participation (in-person or online).
Proposals must be submitted in English via email to by 15 July 2023.

Free event open to the public.
Organizing committee: Emily Pierini (Sapienza University of Rome), Alessandro Lupo (Sapienza University of Rome), Davide Torri (Sapienza University of Rome), Sergio Botta (Sapienza University of Rome), Alessandro Saggioro (Sapienza University of Rome), Cecilia Draicchio (Sapienza University of Rome), Vânia Zikán Cardoso (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina), Roger Canals (University of Barcelona)

This event is part of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellowship project THETRANCE-Transnational Healing: Therapeutic Trajectories in Spiritual Trance. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 895395

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