Dolls and Idols: Critical Essays in Neo-Animism

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 June 2024 | Viewed by 252

Special Issue Editors

E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Anthropology and Sociology, SOAS University of London, London, UK
Interests: medical anthropology; material culture; animism; social robotics

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Guest Editor Assistant
Religious Studies Department, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Interests: doll studies; animism; Japanese religion and popular culture

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

New Animism or "neo-animism" is the attempt to turn a formerly negative category (bound to inferiority in the evolutionary scheme) into a positive critical one that allows a rethinking of the dualism of Western categories such as subject/object, mind/body, person/thing. While it has been embraced enthusiastically by researchers into the anthropocene (Springer 2021), digital interfaces (Marenko & van Allen 2016), and social robotics (Richardson 2016), it had a more muted reception among critical anthropologists, who tend not to believe that the historical and colonial baggage the term brings with it could be shed so easily (Wilkinson 2017). This special issue asks if and under what conditions the term neo-animism is a useful concept to understand interactions between humans and non-humans. We posit that the answer to this question can only be provided through detailed ethnographic studies of concrete cases in which consciousness, aliveness, interiority, agency and intentionality is attributed to a range of others. As a test case, we propose to think through dolls and idols. Dolls are compelling objects because they are so closely entangled with human life. They can serve as ritual implements, toys for children, decorative objects or uncanny entities and even healing and spiritual aids, depending on the quality of the relationships that dolls are part of. The material, mental, and symbolic spaces they inhabit connect them to questions about desire, attachment, surrogacy, ritual and how we understand the human through the mirror of the doll. We invite contributors to use human simulacra and related items of material culture such as talismans, ex votos and reliquaries to think through the beliefs they foster, the ritual and performances they engender and what their creation and destruction means to their makers and owners.

Dr. Fabio Gygi
Guest Editor

Alisha SAikia
Guest Editor Assistant

Manuscript Submission Information

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  • animism
  • neo-animism
  • dolls
  • idols
  • relationality
  • attachment

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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