The History of the International Society for Shamanistic Research (ISSR)

Mihály Hoppál

ISARS President

Ethnographic film by Mehdi Sahebi & Michael Oppitz

Ritual Journey to the Waters of Oblivion into the Netherworld

Mehdi Sahebi

Two trips of Magar healers, connected by one narration. Shot in 2011 and completed in 2015, 25 minutes.

Keynote lecture

Analogies, variation, chance. Comparing local shamanisms

Michael Oppitz

Emeritus Professor, University of Zurich

Archaic Skeletons in New-animistic Closets? Toward a Re-theorization of Shamanism

Riboli, Diana

Assistant Professor, Panteio University

With the passage of time or perhaps due to the countless works on the subject, far from being achieved, the definition of shaman and shamanism appears to be more and more elusive. Although we have probably managed to overcome the quite narrow perception that these terms should only be used for a very specific geographical area and cultural context, the scholarly debates, awkward silences, and scientific disputes continue. The frantic search for the “most authentic” main features in shamanism (usually perceived as being connected to hunting activities, symbolic healing, magical flight and or versus possession etc.) have not lead us to a conclusion.
From Eliade’s model, which is based on supposedly “archaic techniques of ecstasy”, to the more recent frameworks which attempt to discuss shamanism in the context of a re-theorization of animism, stripped of its old and uneasy evolutionary context (Descola, Nurit-Bird, Ingold, Harvey et al.), a plethora of intriguing albeit problematic conceptualizations were used from time to time to throw light on the subject.
The paper does not aim to provide a new definition of the terms ‘shaman’ and ‘shamanism’, which would be probably impossible or even useless, but focuses on a deep critical review of the use of these words. In doing so, the paper will also illustrate the vision and aims of the International Society for Academic Research on Shamanism and its particular engagement in the study of shamanism in relation to urgent issues such as globalization, cultural resistance, human rights and environmental degradation.