Demons: Good & Bad. An Interdisciplinary conference (colloque international)
Les 27 et 28 octobre 2022 a lieu le colloque « Demons: Good & Bad. An Interdisciplinary Conference » au Trinity College de Dublin.
Demonology has been significant in human life throughout history, and is of continuous relevance for multiple aspects of human life. Its scope of influence spans from ancient to contemporary times, and applies to multiple disciplines, such as religion, arts, environmental studies, or medicine.
Adequately juxtaposed with Halloween 2022, the Demons Good and Bad conference will explore the ambivalence of demons, e.g., in terms of their perceived spatial location, morality, physical essence, and functionality; their decline and rise in recent times; and implications of their perceived presence in multiple aspects of human life.
Jeudi 27 octobre 2022
8h30-8h45 : bienvenue à la School of Religion, Theology, and Peace Studies
8h30-8h35 : mot de bienvenue de Zohar Hadromi-Allouche (Trinity College Dublin) et Jonathon O’Donnell (Queen’s University Belfast)
8h35-8h40 : « Halloween » par Cathriona Russell (Trinity College Dublin)
Panel 1: Demonic Ambiguity
Modérateur : Zohar Hadromi-Allouche
« ‘The Spirit said all this is true’: Ambivalent Demons and Unreliable Narrators in Early Modern English Witchcraft-Possession » par Erika Gasser (University of Cincinnati)
Résumé : Among the cases of witchcraft and demonic possession that emerged in England at the turn of the seventeenth century, some were widely regarded as demonstrable evidence of demonic affliction while others became so controversial that that not only the cases but also the participants’ fortunes unraveled as a result. Both believing and sceptical authors published narratives that attempted to fit these chaotic incidents within recognizable scripts. Given the challenges of fixing the meaning of these episodes, authors of published accounts sometimes centered the unreliable testimony of demons themselves. The paper will examine cases in which spirits started out as evil tormenters but transformed into ambivalent figures more like accomplices to the people they had been ordered to harm. Godly gentlemen who published bewitchment or possession accounts knew they should not heed such spirits, but their attempts to resolve the cases’ demonological inconsistencies highlight the contradictions within Puritan, Anglican, and Catholic approaches to these phenomena. As a result, these sources contributed to a centuries-long argument about how properly to discern evidence of the preternatural without falling prey to demonic, sensory, or worldly delusions.
« With Demons: Affliction and/as Affiliation in American Evangelical Demonology » par S. Jonathon O’Donnell (Queen’s University Belfast)
Résumé : Demonization has increasingly become central to the global religious and political landscape, from the ascendancy of the reactionary right to the growth of “spiritual warfare” demonologies among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities that posit demonic activity behind societal. The concept of “demonization” is commonly deployed in reference to dehumanization, processes of systemic and systematic othering. In contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianities, however, “demonization” is used to denote the quality of being beset by demons, afflicted and (thus) influenced by them. This paper analyses these twin uses of “demonization” as they intersect in contemporary reactionary American evangelicalism, analysing a cross-section of recent “spiritual warfare” texts to explore how claims of demonic influence become a proxy for the perpetuation of systemic injustices. How, for example, LGBT rights, religious pluralism, and the safeguarding of reproductive rights and the pursuit of systemic reforms for racial justice—that is, disruptions in the sociopolitical ordering of white Christian cisheteropatriarchy—are marked as epiphenomena of diabolic influence and thus as deserving of elimination, of exorcism, to restore the phantasmatic integrity of the body politic.
« Vade Retro Satana: Contending with the Jinn in 18th–20th Century Syria and Lebanon » par Nikola Pantić (Central European University)
Résumé : Ever since the emergence of Islam and until the present, among Muslims there existed beliefs of incorporeal creatures, malevolent at times, which cohabited the world with humans, albeit unseen. Syrian and Lebanese folklore is rich with the stories about the jinn, at times composed for didactic purposes or as written agents of social control. These capricious beings are still at times believed to cause great harm to individuals – especially those who fail to obey social norms. In early modern and modern Syria and Lebanon, many ways existed to deflect or contend with the influence of these unseen beings, ranging from prayer to ritualistic sacrifice. The talk will focus on reading the eighteenth-twentieth century Arabic sources originating or circulated in Syria and Lebanon. The nature of these sources varies from modern ethnographies to early modern thaumaturgical manuals which describe ways to deal with these daemons. The talk will commence with discussions about the description of the jinn given in the sources, their relation to the zodiac signs and the popular attempts to classify these creatures by their supposed diet and natural habitat. The second part of the talk will tackle ways in which the people of Syria and Lebanon contended with these creatures between the eighteenth and the twentieth century. Focus will be placed on rituals aimed both at deflecting the negative consequences of jinnic influence, and at subduing the jinn for personal gain. The talk will briefly examine talismanics and other types of jinn-related Arabic sorcery as well.
10h30-10h45 : pause
Panel 2: Literary Demons
Modérateur : Harriet Walker
« Medieval Cosmographies: Demons and Demonic Animals in the Ottoman World » par Feray Coşkun (Özyeğin University)
Résumé : Medieval cosmographies such as Wonders of Creation and Oddities of Existence (Ajā’ib al-Makhlūqāt wa Gharā’ib al-Mawjūdāt) by at-Tūsī and al-Qazwīnī, were widely read in the Ottoman world, inspiring Ottoman literati to translate them into Turkish or compose similar works. Recalling natural encyclopedias, these cosmographies described far and close geographies and invisible and visible beings. Demons and demonic animals played a role in such works in the description of terrestrial and celestial phenomena and were counted among the wonders of divine creation, evoking various feelings in readers such as fear, disgust, perplexity, astonishment and admiration. This paper focuses on various demonic beings, such as the fearful gigantic snake surrounding the divine throne or the fallen angels hung upside down in a Babylonian cave teaching people magic with the warning that they were nothing but God’s trials, or troubling demonic animals in the isles of Indian Ocean and Ottoman Balkans. Offering a visual analysis of their depiction in the Ottoman manuscripts, this paper seeks answers to the following questions: In what ways were demonic beings woven into religious symbolism and creative imagination, and how was their “evil” or “sinfulness” instrumentalized to convey theological or moralistic messages to cultivate goodness and piety.
« The Discursivity of Hindu Gaze: Probing the Asura in Bholanauth Chunder’s Travelogue » par Avishek Ray (National Institute of Technology Silchar)
Résumé : The ‘travelogue’ as a genre in the Indian context is intrinsically linked with colonial exposure, the literary modernity that purportedly ushered thereafter, and the ethos of Indian nationalism. This paper demonstrates how, in his The Travels of a Hindoo to various parts of Bengal and Upper India (1869), Bholanauth Chunder reinforces his ‘Hindoo’ identity and aims to achieved cultural compatriotship with the colonizer at the cost of indiscriminately referring to certain ‘non-Aryan’ indigenous people, encountered during his travels, as asura (demon). Using this text as a case study, this paper examines how the relationship between the traveller (Chunder) and the ‘travelled’ was being mediated by heuristic categories—in this case, the asura—emerging out of the casteist Hindu worldview. Curiously, the two concepts, asura and Hindu, were hereby being pitted against each ohr in the nineteenth century nationalist scheme. Departing from here, this paper seeks to situate the concept of asura with reference to Chunder’s ‘Hindoo’ gaze, which fostered communal ethos, at a time when cultural histories were being woven from a highly contingent process of political partisanship, struggles over the meaning of nationhood and citizenship, (anti-)imperialist ideologies laced with notions of territorialization.
« ‘What a monstrous idea, Father’: Demons and Organized Religion in Midnight Mass, Diablero and El Diablo Me Obligó » par Kamil Naicker (University of the Western Cape)
Résumé : This paper will explore the two recent Netflix shows: Midnight Mass (2021) and Diablero (2018), along with F.G. Haghenbeck’s novel, El Diablo Me Obligó, upon which Diablero is based. It will examine the figures of Monsignor Pruitt (Midnight Mass) and Padre Ramiro Ventura (Diablero) and the ways in which their discovery of a ‘darker’ underworld impacts their approach to faith. While Pruitt contorts himself to incorporate the demon he encounters into a wish-fulfillment version of Catholicism, Ramiro finds that the discovery of a demonic ‘underworld’ has the potential to enrich his life and his world view. This is best represented through his romance with Nancy, who can invite demons to possess her at will. The paper will demonstrate that, while the fate of Pruitt speaks to the dangers of demonization and exceptionalism in the modern-day USA, the picture painted in Diablero, which departs from its source material to combine elements of Catholicism, indigenous magic and neopaganism, ends up being a warm and witty homage both to modern Mexican identity and to the art of pastiche.
12h15-14h15 : pause
Panel 3: Race, Racialization, and Colonialism
Modérateur : Jonathon O’Donnell
« ‘Malefick Venome’: Demonological Discourse, Blackness + Territorialization » par Cecilio M. Cooper (NYU)
Résumé : Early modern witch hunts have been largely framed as epitomizing cisheteropatriarchal persecution of white European women. However, this paper contextualizes demonization of blackness during the ‘burning times’ and inquisitions within broader efforts to spatially constitute the Atlantic World as a domain of chattel slavery. Sinfulness was thought to render Man susceptible to infernal infestation, which was feared to be a communicable malady endemic to African-derived Black peoples. Once pagan spirituality and physiological aberrance were declared intrinsic to Black Africa, its populace was territorialized as a vector for malevolent disease elsewhere. Though these witch-hunts are often cast as non-racial phenomena throughout scholarship and popular culture, presumptions that blackness evidenced demonic infestation amidst white bodies (e.g. blackened body parts and effluvia) are actually inextricably tethered to questions around racism and antiblackness. For example, venetian exorcist Zacaria Visconti lists black swollen tongues as principal indicators of demonic possession in his 1589 demonology manual. During the 1634 Loudun possessions, convent nuns observed a mysterious black orb infiltrating their rectory. ‘Malefick Venome,’ a phrase drawn from John Hale’s 1702 demonologicla treatise, also speaks to blackness’ imagined tendency to manifest as a roving phantasmogoric threat. This paper ultimate traces how blackness inflects demonological territory.
« Demonizing the Jew in Byzantine Apocalyptic Works » par Michail Kitsos (University of Toronto)
Résumé : Demonology features prominently in ancient Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature. Especially in Christian apocalyptic works, the demons’ role is punitory, entailing the eternal torture of sinners and non-believers in Hell. The study of demons in ancient religious texts has focused mostly on their origins, their role in Christian theological thinking, as well as their deployment in imperial political thinking, and less on their association with humans. This paper proposes more nuanced ways of examining the relation of demons with humans outside the context of punishment in Christian apocalyptic thinking by considering the association of demons with Jews. A close reading of Byzantine apocalyptic texts reveals a process of Christian authors’ impersonating Jews as demons or imagining them as demon-like to create a lineage between Satan and Jews. Consequently, I argue that impersonating Jews as demons aimed at warning the Christian audience of these works that association with Jews would turn them equally into demons. This paper concludes that attributing demon-like features to Jews was a direct attack against the biblical concept of the chosen people of God and it was not associated with Christian fear of Jewish influence upon the Church.
« The Possibility of Decolonial Demons in African Pentecostalism » par Nathanael Homewood (Rice University)
Résumé : This paper will analyze the ubiquity of and creativity within Pentecostal demons in African Christianity. These various demons are much older than Pentecostalism itself, and it is impossible to isolate them from their historical antecedents. Accordingly, I will demonstrate how contemporary African Pentecostal demons respond to, embrace, and subvert the demons and demonizations imported as a central part of colonialism and its religious appendages. Colonialism very purposefully transported the figure of the demon to Africa to privilege the European way of being human and dehumanize others. Demons, then, were used to delineate racial boundaries, discipline various sexual expressions, diminish religious forms, and consolidate colonial rule. While outlining this genealogy, I apply the efforts of Black Studies scholars who have argued that the demonic offers a capacious model of uncertainty that responds to hegemony in unexpected ways. In particular, I argue that the African Pentecostal ritual embrace of demons employs uncertainty in order to resignify black bodies, sexualities, citizenships, and religious forms. Decolonial demons, as such, construct a world otherwise from colonial worldings.
15h45-16h00 : pause
Conférence (Keynote Address)
Modérateurs : Zohar Hadromi-Allouche et Jonathon O’Donnell
« How to Rule a Magical World: Europe, 1400–1700 » par Julian Goodare (University of Edinburgh)
Vendredi 28 octobre 2022
Panel 4: Demonic Ambiguity in Islamic tradition
Modératrice : Dunja Rašić
« The Inbetweener: Satan in the Islamic Tradition » par Zohar Hadromi-Allouche (Trinity College Dublin)
Résumé : This paper characterizes the figure of Satan in the Islamic religious tradition as a multi-faceted, complex being. It explores the portrayal of Satan in diverse religious genres, such as the Qur’an, hadīth, tafsīr and Islamic historiography up to the fifteenth century. Through highlighting some of the main traits of Satan in these Islamic sources, it demonstrates that liminality is an enduring trait of Satan in Islam — regardless of the name or genre through which he is being referred. Texts that refer to Satan as Iblīs or al-Shaytān alike contain liminal symbols such as the change of name, ambivalent origin, paradoxical essence, liminal locations, linkage to liminal substances and places; and serving as an agent of liminality. Satan is depicted through Feminine liminal symbols, too, such as being a mother and a lover. The continuous, enduring liminal position of Satan in Islam agrees with Bynum’s definition of liminality; whereas his ambiguous character is very much in line with Jung’s understanding of evil as needing to be tamed, rather than destructed.
« Satan and Demons in Islamic Art » par István Kristó-Nagy (University of Exeter)
Résumé : Dr Zohar Hadromi-Allouche and I are working on a co-authored monograph exploring views on the Devil in Islamicate and comparative contexts. The working title of our project is: ‘Satan is with the individual’: The liminal and ambiguous Devil. This talk is dedicated to a picture that we consider using for the front cover this book, as it reflects those aspects of the images of Satan we aim to discuss: ambiguity, sexuality, arts, music and violence, humour and terror. Tracing the possible origins and deciphering the potential meanings of this picture will require the same transdisciplinary and transcivilisational approach that we will employ in the book. We will look at and discuss representations of mythical plants, animals, humans, angels and demons and various mixtures of them.
« Al-‘Uzzā in the Islamic Tradition: From a Sacred Deity to a Black Demon » par Zahra Mohagheghian (Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies)
Résumé : Al-Lāt, al-‘Uzzā and Manāt were among the famous deities of the pre-Islamic Arabs, whose names are also mentioned in the Qur’an (53:19-20). Investigating the Qur’anic verses demonstrates that the Qur’an during the period of its revelation introduced these goddesses as demonic and explicitly states that the believers in these goddesses originally worship demons (4: 117). The deeds and rituals that the pagans performed for these goddesses were also introduced as obedience to Satan (4: 118–120). In this paper, I show that the demonization of these goddesses was not sudden and simple, but the Qur’an went through various stagesto introduce such an identity. The main question is on what basis, how and during what stages were the Arabian goddesses demonized in the Qur’an? I will explain that the above process was a polemical confrontation, arising from the common traditions in the Middle East, which took place in at least 3 stages: the Qur’an first reduced these goddesses to the status of angels, then called them jinn, and finally introduces them as demons. I also illustrate that Muslim authors during the Islamic tradition benefitted greatly from the demonization of these goddesses by the Qur’an and tried to present it as a historical and pre-Qur’anic fact by fabricating various stories, especially in the events related to the destruction of the goddesses.
10h30-10h45 : pause
Panel 5: Demons in Visual and Material Culture
Modératrice : Erika Gasser
« Sorrows of the Vetala: An Analysis of the Demon Figure in City of Sorrows » par Debaditya Mukhopadhyay (Manikchak College, University of Gourbanga)
Résumé : Among the demons featured in Sanskrit literature, Vetala holds a position of distinction for its recurrent appearances as a riddler. The Indian horror-comics series City of Sorrows (2014-17) marks a significant change in the fashioning of this demon by way of providing it a socially significant backstory. As explained in this series, Vetalas are restless spirits of torture victims and a large number of these demons were created during the counter insurgency against Naxalites in 1970s’ Kolkata. Focusing on this conjoining of the Naxalites with Vetalas, this presentation will explain how and why the demon Vetala appears as an ambivalent representation of the victims of state-induced violence in City of Sorrows. The arguments will be explicated through close-reading of significant sections of the horror-comics series and excerpts from interviews with its makers.
« Demons Within Apocalyptic (Japanese) Video Game Narratives » par David Stevenson (Trinity College Dublin)
Résumé : The Shin Megami Tensei series has existed since 1992, yet the global recognition of the games has only emerged in recent years, owing to the explosive success of the spin-off title, Persona 5, released originally in 2015. In Japan, SMT has maintained parity with major Japanese Role Playing Games (JRPGs) such as Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, but differs significantly in its depiction of a dark urban apocalypse, where Tokyo is overrun by demons and Gods alike. The outcome of this scenario is also left to the player’s choice, in which reconciliation with the divine, antinomianism, and the banishment of supernatural intervention are possible, and determinant on the player’s interpretation of an ideal outcome. Where SMT series predominantly uses Tokyo as the backdrop of the apocalypse, the ‘demons’ encountered within the series extensively draw from global myth and folklore alike; from Yōkai to Ars Goetia to the ‘Trumpeter’ described in The Book of Revelation, and even Hecate guarding the crossroads of Yetzirah. The latter example demonstrates the development team’s interest in both detailed representation of deific figures, and ‘remixing’ their identity in a pluralistic chronicle of the occult. This revised cosmic landscape also incorporates countless motifs from both Sethian and Jungian Gnostic belief; most notably in the depiction of YHVH as a false god who demands fealty to the material world. In this proposed paper, I would like to examine the SMT series through the key examples of Shin Megami Tensei II (SNES, 1992) and Devil Summoner: Soul Hackers (Saturn, 1997), contrasting the construction and representation of deific figures in a global apocalypse, and incorporate this reading into Japan’s fascination with the mankind’s end, a tale retold countlessly in video games throughout the ‘Lost Decade’ of the 1990’s.
« M. R. James: The Demon in the Library » par Darryl Jones (Trinity College Dublin)
Résumé : Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) is the foremost English ghost-story writer. He was also the pre-eminent scholar of medieval manuscripts of his day, a codicologist who left behind an enormous body of work in manuscript catalogues, as well as being a distinguished scholar of Biblical apocrypha, the editor of the Oxford Apocryphal New Testament (1924), and many other important studies. As a scholar, he encountered demons on a daily basis, represented in illuminated manuscripts, ecclesiastical architecture and stained glass, and apocryphal scriptures. His stories are best understood as a kind of creative by-product or irresponsible surplus to his formal scholarly research. ‘Ghost stories’ is a generic term, and in James’s case not always an accurate one. Many of his best stories narrate terrifying encounters in a series of libraries and archives, in which curious scholars discover lost manuscripts or artefacts which summon a variety of demonic entities and forces.
12h15-14h00 : pause
Panel 6: Demonic Ambiguity in Islamic mysticism
Modérateur : István Kristó-Nagy
« Qarīn: A Demonic Double in Akbarian Sufism » par Dunja Rašić (Freie Universität Berlin)
Résumé : Ghouls, ifrits and a panoply of other jinn have long haunted Muslim cultures and societies. These also include demonic doubles (qarīn, pl. quranāʾ): the little-studied and much-feared denizens of the hearts and blood of humans. My presentation centers on the notion of jinn doppelgangers in Akbarian Sufism. We will also examine how Ibn ʿArabī’s writings on jinn tackle the even larger issues of spiritual ascension, predestination and the human relationship to the Divine.
« Iblis: A Good Face of the Devil in Persian Romantic Mysticism » par Mahmood Heidari (Yasouj University)
Résumé : Since the beginning of third century AH, Hallaj, an Iranian poet and Sufi, a new narration of Islam based on romance and love was introduced which is mainly described as romantic mysticism. According to this romantic mysticism, the spread of love and affection resulted in a positive impression about negative figures even Iblis. This group of the mystics and on the top of them, Hallaj, interpreted Iblis’s disobedience to God and refusal to prostrate before Adam was out of his excessive love for God and thus created a positive face of Iblis in the literature. Hallaj’s mentality and approach to Ibis’s rebellion and his special attitude towards Iblis’s behavior was considered as ground breaking and destructive mindset. No one has ever tried to interpret Iblis in such a way before Hallaj and Hallaj was the first person depicting Iblis as an overshadowed and oppressed figure who purely loved God and because of that he disregarded God’s order. This group of mystics view Iblis as a devoted creature who has suffered an eternal pain but he never gave up his option and never tried to prostrate Adam. Iblis believed that only God deserved to be respected and prostrated. In this paper, Iblis’s features as a positive and a good figure in the mystic literature are described.
15h00-15h15 : pause
Panel 7: Demonic-human relationships
Modérateur : Darryl Jones
« Dealing with the Devils: Scribal Conceptualisation of Demons in Late Antique Jewish Legal Magic » par Harriet Walker (University of Exeter)
Résumé : Aramaic bowl spells record how human-demon relations played out at the intersections of religion, magic, and medicine in Late Antique Mesopotamia. There is increasing awareness that many were written by professional scribes, drawing on their knowledge of Jewish legal and religious traditions to deal with demons causing trouble for their clients. Scribal conceptualisation of the demons they sought to influence, however, has been largely neglected. This paper offers an original perspective on how the magic bowls worked that sheds light on these conceptualisations. By establishing many of them as instances of Jewish legal magic, and examining the features of this category, an important new picture of the demons, and their place in the world, emerges. Demons are shown to be active members of a society extending beyond the human sphere, but still subject to, and aware of institutions of Jewish law. This perspective presents a significant challenge to Yuval Harari’s (2017) rejection of performative speech act theory’s relevance to Jewish magic on the grounds that the changes sought go beyond the scope of social change. Instead, I argue that these scribal conceptualisations of demons reflect a created social order where systems of rules, rights, and obligations do indeed offer scribes performative recourse for managing human-demon relations.
« The Posthuman Demonic: From Ancient Binding to Ambivalent Symbiosis Between Humans and Demons » par Joseph Kimmel (Harvard University)
Résumé : Nonhuman beings are all the rage in contemporary academia: led by philosophers like Donna Haraway, the importance of nonhumans—from animals to artificial intelligence—has increasingly attracted scholarly attention. While this emphasis marks a valuable step forward in many respects, posthumanist thinkers have tended to focus rather myopically on a narrowly circumscribed set of nonhumans (e.g., animals, cyborgs). But what about all the other nonhumans? What, for example, about demons? This paper charts the relevance of demons on posthuman studies through a careful study of the posthumanist implications of Mark 3:27, a verse on “binding the strong man” which has immensely influenced human-demonic interactions over the past two millennia. After first providing a textual analysis of this ancient “binding” verse, my paper will discuss its resonance with other ancient “binding” artifacts (e.g., defixiones) before turning to contemporary interpretations and applications of this passage (e.g., among Pentecostal Christians). Such applications will illuminate a productive attraction/repulsion in how demons and humans enduringly interact and thus will point to a certain ambivalent symbiosis between these beings. The paper then will conclude by exploring the implications of this symbiosis—and particularly the overlooked presence of the demonic—for posthuman studies.
« Demons and Health in the Biblical World: Good, Bad, and… » par Ilona Rashkow (SUNY Stony Brook)
Résumé : Our medieval/modern presumption is that a demon is an intrinsically evil supernatural being and an angel is an intrinsically good supernatural being, but the Ancient Near East did not view demons in the same way. In the ancient world, there was a widespread belief in supernatural powers or beings that existed in addition to the well-known gods and goddesses. Demons were not viewed as necessarily evil, although some might be. It was accepted generally that demons could take control of nature and cause natural calamities. On a more personal level, demons could cause physical disease (including specific problems such as deafness or blindness) as well as mental illness. On the other hand, some demons were apotropaic; others could heal; and some caused fertility. Although they are classified often as either evil or good, for the most part they were largely amoral – their harmful or beneficial effects could be manipulated: they could be appeased with offerings and incantations, and even directed against each other by a skilled practitioner of magic. Demons are far more complicated, and more interesting, than one side in a simple opposition between good and evil. This paper examines the role of demons in the Hebrew Bible through the spectrum of other Ancient Near Eastern demons and their role in health and disability.
Citer ce billet
Jean-Charles Coulon (2022, 25 octobre). Demons: Good & Bad. An Interdisciplinary conference (colloque international). Le monde des djinns. Consulté le 26 février 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/ns8f