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CUSAS Seminar: Dr Nick Long (LSE)

When Nov 21, 2019
from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Seminar Room, Dept of Social Anthropology, Free School Lane
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Dr Nick Long (LSE)

Troubleshooting the human laptop: Thinking through undesirable behaviours in the company of anthropologists, philosophers, and Indonesian hypnotherapists

To be active on Indonesia’s hypnosis circuit is to stand at the forefront of a movement grappling with complex questions regarding the nature of human experience. Foremost amongst these are questions regarding the will, motivation, and why subjects should ever choose, freely and in the absence of coercion, to undertake actions that go against their better judgement. Such questions, of course, are not of interest to hypnotherapists alone. They have often been taken up by anthropologists, critical theorists and philosophers, giving rise to rich and nuanced models of the agentive self that explicitly or implicitly underpin much contemporary ethnographic analysis. However, Indonesian hypnotherapists answer them in ways that differ subtly but importantly from the prevailing consensus in Euro-American scholarship, drawing heavily on cybernetic metaphors to posit the self as being like a laptop or smartphone that requires regular upgrades, protection against computer viruses, defragmentation, and password resets in order to function effectively. This paper outlines these conceptualisations of the human self, examines how, why, and to what effect they have been adopted by Indonesian hypnotherapists, and discusses the challenges they might pose to mainstream anthropological and philosophical reasoning.

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