Ritual Retellings: Luangan Healing Performances through Practice | BERGHAHN BOOKS
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Volume 16

Epistemologies of Healing

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Ritual Retellings

Luangan Healing Performances through Practice

Isabell Herrmans

304 pages, 20 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-564-6 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (March 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-565-3 eBook


View CartYour country: - edit Buy the eBook from these vendorsRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


Ritual Retellings contributes to the rich ethnographic tradition of scholarship in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. The author situates the Luangan ethnographically, detailing comparisons with other peoples in Kalimantan as well as with peoples in Malaysia, the Phillipines, and elsewhere in Indonesia. For ethnographers and scholars of Southeast Asia, this book is an important addition to the literature.” • Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“This work is a significant contribution to anthropology and to South-east Asian studies on dispersed communities and on curing rituals. The textually-rich chapters offer topics of interest to other scholars working on social anxiety, material culture, musicology and public health.” • Asian Journal of Social Science

“…an elegantly written ethnography… I warmly recommend [it] to the student of oral traditions and heritage, especially to those who have an interest in ethnographical methodologies and collaborative approaches.” • Moussons: Recherche en sciences humaines sur l’Asie du Sud-Est

“Herrmans’ ethnographically rich analysis is based upon data that were collected during visits that spanned the course of decades…That Herrmans’ analysis of belian is as deeply immersed in anthropological theory as it is engaged with ethnographic literatures is a strength of this book…The volume is highly recommended for scholars of Southeast Asia, of ritual and religion, medical anthropologists, and social scientists with broad interests in indigenous identities and social change. It would also be useful reading in graduate courses on ritual and religion.” • Anthropological Forum

“Of particular value is Herrmans’s analysis of the subject matter from a multidimensional perspective by integrating various theoretical trends and concepts…The greatest strength of this volume is its captivating and vivid ethnographic description and meticulous documentation of situationally emerging ritual performances, entwined with the life stories of the particular people who were involved in them through which the ethnographic scene is brought ‘alive’ for the reader.” • The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology

“I consider this book to be a valuable contribution to Southeast Asian ethnography and to the study of ritual performance and healing. The author effectively explores the connections of her study to contemporary approaches to the study of ritual meaning and practice, and to the wider ethnographic literature. The book reads as an extended conversation with colleagues about ways to approach, present, and understand curing rituals.” • Jane Monnig Atkinson, Lewis & Clark College

“The author draws the reader into a discussion about myth and ritual as flexible, unpredictable and ongoing processes intertwined with everyday life. The main strengths of the book… are how the author lets the spirits come alive, acting as subjects, and the central place she gives to the exploration of spirit negotiations.” • Jörgen Hellman, University of Gothenburg


Belian is an exceptionally lively tradition of shamanistic curing rituals performed by the Luangans, a politically marginalized population of Indonesian Borneo. This volume explores the significance of these rituals in practice and asks what belian rituals do – socially, politically, and existentially – for particular people in particular circumstances. Departing from the conception that rituals exist as ethereal, liminal or insulated traditional domains, this volume demonstrates the importance of understanding rituals as emergent within their specific historical and social settings. It offers an analysis of a number of concrete ritual performances, exemplifying a diversity of ritual genres, stylistic modalities and sensual ambiences, from low-key, habitual affairs to drawn-out, crowd-seizing community rituals and innovative, montage-like cultural experiments.

Isabell Herrmans is a post-doctoral researcher in Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Helsinki. She has done fieldwork in Indonesian Borneo since 1993, and has research interests in shamanistic curing practices, Indonesian politics of religion, animistic ontologies, and sensory experience.

Subject: Medical AnthropologyAnthropology of Religion
Area: Asia-Pacific


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