March 8, 2013
1. What is the main purpose of this article?
Using experiences as evidence Bubandt hopes to prove that spirits can be used as informants
in research. Using the possession of Ibu Lan he demonstrates how multiple personalities can
possess one being. He also notes that historically the people in Tenate have been using spirits to
make important political and personal decisions as the spirits provide advice based on seen and
unseen world experiences and they can reflect on the past, present and future of a person.
2. How we can write about something like spirit possession in a way that takes it seriously
and doesn't dismiss it as made up. Is Bubandt successful in arguing this?
Bubandt argues that possession is a learned technique using a medium. By explaining the
history of it it makes possession seem like a more practiced procedure and one that has the
potential to be recreated. By presenting this as a scientific methodology there is more potential
for it to be accepted as proper methodology in the scientific community. One of his key points is
that spirits should be treated as informants because the people of Tenate do so, this is
oversimplifying the issue and taking it at face value. Bubandt doesn't work to prove why the
people do this but simple states this as essentially good enough for him.
However, many factors work to dismiss the potential of these spirits being truthful
informants that can be used as research subjects. The competing beings trying to possess a body
make it difficult to contact the same person each time and recreate the findings. Also the
competing moral understandings make it difficult for spirits or a spirit and a body to come to an
agreement on moral dilemmas. This demonstrates the combinations of ideas rather than
contacting one spirit there are many at play, this means rather than getting one opinion you are
receiving many and therefore are any to the extent of being credible sources? Or is the
information too jumbled by opinions to be usable? Also when Ibu discussed his future as
inclusive of children after sadly learning that he had none it could be dismissed as her previous
knowledge and really having no connection to the spirit. Bubandt argues though that spirits can
be engaged like any other informant as they can be interviewed and observed through their
possession of this living body. He also comments that like living subjects it is important to
question their truth and work objectively throughout the process.
Overall it is unclear that a spirit is able to engage with the people in an honest manner that
can later be proven. Personally I think their use of spirits in making important decisions is
questionable based solely on the arguments presented in this article but I am assuming the
Tentate people have deeper understandings and reasons for trusting the spirits in guiding them.
As for the article I think Bubandt presents important points in proving that spirits can be
informants but as of currently I'm not sure if I would personally use them as informants or
completely trust the research of people who did.
3. Do you agree spirits should be treated as informants? Why might we want to understand
spirits as ontologically real? As noted by Bubandt the use of spirits changes potential field work and allows researchers to