Exorcism:real or superstition? – College Pal

Minimum 1400 words. 

Due by  Feb 12 Sunday 9:00 PM. ( Central Time)

– Included one video please watch it and include few information from that video.

Sources for my research

Exorcism:real or superstition?

1. Article: Shackles of superstition

Citation: Shrivastava, Parveen. “SHACKLES OF SUPERSTITION.”  Alive (New Delhi, India), no. 410, 2016, p. 57–.

2. Article: Fakecraft

Citation: Paul Christopher Johnson. “Fakecraft.”  Journal for the Study of Religion, vol. 31, no. 2, 2018, pp. 105–37, https://doi.org/10.17159/2413-3027/2018/v31n2a5.

3. Video: Your Bleeped Up Brain

Citation: Your Bleeped up Brain. Episode 1, Deception. A&E Television Networks, 2013.

4. Article: Somewhere between science and superstition’: Religious outrage, horrific science, and The Exorcist (1973)

Citation: Chambers, Amy C. “‘Somewhere Between Science and Superstition’: Religious Outrage, Horrific Science, and The Exorcist (1973).”  History of the Human Sciences, vol. 34, no. 5, 2021, pp. 32–52, https://doi.org/10.1177/09526951211004465.

5. Book: The Devil Within : Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West.

Citation: Levack, Brian.  The Devil Within : Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West, Yale University Press, 2013.  ProQuest Ebook Central.

Summary of book: The Devil Within formed a key addition to the bibliography list as the resource provided in-depth information on possession and exorcism cases that have taken place over the years. Incorporation of this book was essentially a no-brainer as it featured wide range of instances whereby the problem of possession was easily observable across the populations involved. Generally, the book encompasses multiple centuries and integrates various instances of possession and exorcism as have been recorded across history. It importantly includes well depicted scenarios such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The book is a vital addition as it features an extensive regard of the cases of possession and exorcisms which have taken place. The book also presents true story based film which concludes “..The trial of two German parish priests in 1973 for killing twenty-three-year-old woman, Anneliese Michel, after exorcising her sixty-seven times…” (Levack 242). In this way, the authors are able to provide insight on the developments that took place thus enabling the readers to be informed about the reality or lack thereof of demonic possession and exorcism. The coverage of lengthy timeframe is instrumental in depicting how the subject matter has been a part of the lives of individuals for a long while. It was necessary to include this book in the research process mainly because of the knowledge base that it has contributed towards.

Note: You can use this information from book in the rough draft


Journal for the Study of Religion 31, 2 (2018) 105-137 105 Online ISSN 2413-3027; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2413-3027/2018/v31n2a5


Paul Christopher Johnson

[email protected]

Abstract The essay defines and explores the dimensions of ‘fakecraft’. It unpacks

authenticity in relation to problems of identity, the aura of the original, and

commodification. It then shows how notions of authenticity and the fake generate centers and peripheries in the study of religion. The essay explores

how traditions of African descent in the Caribbean and Brazil have long been

marginalized in the study of religion as lacking depth or authenticity. The essay

then takes up a specific example of fakecraft and its prolific work, namely in early modern Christianity’s process of purification and self-definition through

evaluations of demonic possession as ‘real’ or ‘fake’, terms that were then

applied to the west coast of Africa. In the broadest terms, the article argues that fakecraft – discourses of the real versus the merely mimetic – is basic to


Keywords: fake, fakery, authenticity, African religions, demon possession,

mimesis, religion, Christianity

Fakes disguise their tracks. Their origins are uncertain. The term ‘fake’ may

be related to the folds of nautical lines and sails, or to street slang for theft. As a verb it at one point implied ‘to clean away’. To ‘fake someone out and out’

in the early 1800s meant to kill them. In every sense the term conveyed

transformations, though of diverse kinds. Much later, in the 20th century, jazz musicians used ‘fake’ to play notes other than those on the printed sheet – to

improvise. Jazz artists kept their own dossiers of chord changes for standard

tunes, called fakebooks. Another variation still active in the dictionary but

otherwise retired is ‘fakement’ – an early term for an efficacious forgery.

Paul Christopher Johnson


Despite the range of uses, all the etymologies suggest doubling, a visible effect

pointing to a reality below. Every forgery points toward an original, like a

visible fold of rope that implies many coils beneath the surface, of unknown reach. Every improvisation riffs on and calls to ear the notes of an absent

musical score, even when only the fakebook is visible on the stand.

Some of the old glosses related to the fake are faded or gone, but others

(‘fake news’) have sprung to life. ‘Fakelore’, first penned by Richard Dorson in 1950, was coined as an inversion of folklore. Dorson (1950:336) called the

stories of ‘fake lore’ inauthentic because they were produced by entertainment

industries like Disney, or by states rather than living communities. Dorson’s fiery invective was directed especially against a post-WWII spate of popular

Paul Bunyan books, and against nationalist claims invoked through such works

and their overlarge footprint that buried the tracks of more genuine backwoods hero-tales, like those of French Canadians, Finns, North Michiganders, Poles,

Chippewa, or of labor groups like lumberjacks (Dorson 1950:336-337). More

distantly, Dorson was concerned with fascism’s use of fake lore. Authentic

folklore, Dorson insisted, must be alive, told by actual people in groups (Dorson 1950:342). Abstractions like nation-states do not sit rapt around a fire,

or even any longer (one can imagine Dorson saying) in the shared glow of a

television. By 1959 he joined the term, fake lore, into one, ‘fakelore’ (Dorson 1959:4).

David Chidester (2005:191) points out that fakelore, like fake religion,

produces real effects in the world. In Alan Dundes’ diagnosis, for example, it

fills a national psychic need in times of crisis when folklore fails, or in the face of national insecurity (Dundes 1989:50-51). Dundes adds the intervention that

fakelore is material and spatial as much as verbal or textual, and that fakelore

can easily become folklore. Just so for Chidester, who argues that fake religion veers easily into ‘real’ religion in its effects. This is largely in keeping with the

‘invented tradition’ idea (Hobsbawm & Ranger 1983), pointing to the

functions of allegedly age-old histories of only recent coinage. Only think of how versions of the home depicted in Laura Ingall Wilder’s Little house on the

prairie – a work of fiction only loosely drawn from her own life – are now the

most visited historical sites in the middle U.S. (McClellan, In Press).

While Ranger and Hobsbawm, like Dorson and Dundes, were concerned with the nationalist risks of invented traditions – the ways they use

ritual to impose ‘tacitly accepted rules’ to ‘inculcate certain values’

(Hobsbawm 1983:1) – one might also think of fakery in relation to play. In the



lighter terms of pretend or fabrication, and following the lead from jazz, one

can also see fakes as improvisations. Children are terrific fakers, including of

ritual. Children in Cuba ‘fake’ Santería possession events as a way of marking aspiration and their future trajectory (Palmié 2013:296). Children play at ritual

as a way of learning it, including faking spirit possession, all over the African

Americas (Landes 1947:174; Richman 2012:283; Segato 2005:103; Opipari &

Timbert 1997; Halloy & Naumescu 2012), just as elsewhere they play at Mass or masking (Caillois 1961:62). There is a dark side to the question of the fake

– say, the fascist invented traditions of Aryanism, or the ‘epistemic murk’

blurring of truth and fiction that births a culture of terror (Taussig 1984:192- 193). And there is a lighter side, presented in the creative play of children

working out the craft of ritual. This lighter side is often apparent in popular

culture too. Still, as Adorno writes, it is precisely the appearance of superficiality that can make popular culture dangerous, including religion –

astrology, like racism, provides a useful ‘short-cut…bringing the complex to a

handy formula’ (Adorno 1994:61).

Chidester (2005:2) signals the relation between the serious work of religion, engaging the sacred, the transcendent and questions of ultimate

meaning, and the ‘comparatively frivolous play of popular culture’. Elsewhere

he blurs the line between the sacred and play, by noting that ‘religious’ work is also done by popular culture (Chidester 2005:231), whether in the form of

baseball, rock ‘n’ roll, or Burning Man. His point can even be taken further in

order to say that religion itself is often quite unserious. The play and the pop

even within devoted ritual practice is part of its modus operandi and its appeal. Adorno (2000:78-79) went so far as to call this constitutive of the ‘religious

medium’ as such, whose ‘sentimentality, blatant insincerity and phoniness’ are

part and parcel of good performance. These qualities fulfill the ‘longing of the people for “feigning” things’. Here Adorno steers toward the longing for the


We need not fully indulge Adorno’s cynicism to nevertheless pursue the point: People like to play, blur categories of performance, and suspend

disbelief. So much is this the case that the lines dividing play or pretend from

‘real’ ritual are difficult if not impossible to discern. From this perspective, the

crafting of ritual scenes and procedures that undo the distinctions of fake and real ritual is a central part of the work of making and maintaining a religion, as

‘the play of presence’ (Taussig 1999:142). It is a refined art, a techne in

Paul Christopher Johnson


Heidegger’s nomenclature; the art of bringing forth, of causing something new

to appear (Heidegger 1977:184).

The first half of this essay explores key dimensions of what I call ‘fakecraft’, including the way it plays on and against issues of authenticity.

Authenticity is unpacked in relation to problems of identity, the aura of the

original, and commodification. The ways in which notions of authenticity and

the fake have generated centers and peripheries in the study of religion, are also considered. Traditions of African descent in the Caribbean and Brazil, for

example, have long been marginalized in the study of religion as lacking depth

or authenticity – as syncretic – though that has by now begun to change. The second half of the essay then takes up a specific example of fakecraft and its

prolific work, namely in early modern Christianity’s process of purification

and self-definition through evaluations of demonic possession as ‘real’ or ‘fake’.

I. Fakecraft Fakecraft is basic to religion-making. The term ‘craft’ in the conjunction is suggestive for my purposes because it joins at least three meanings from its

Germanic etymology and its English vernacular use: 1) a power wielded and

deployed (Kraft); 2) a skill that is honed and practiced; and 3) a vessel of transport. These three senses – as power, skill, and transport from one bodily

state to another, or one vision of the world to another, usefully summarize the

kinds of work often gathered under the usefully fuzzy term ‘religion’. Fakecraft gestures toward the craft of making multiplicity visible – the forgery that

implies a real; the top of a coiled rope or sail that conveys many more loops or

folds below; the improvisation that plays off – always imply an absent written

score. Note, though, that religious traditions constitute their notions of

fakery, as well as the margins and terms of opacity and indecipherability, in

very different ways. For example, the notion of the fake as a lack of sincerity – the mismatch between external appearance or words and a putative internal

state – has a distinctly Protestant character, both in the nature of the question

and in its particular linguistic form (Keane 2002). The centrality of sincerity to

Protestant ideas of the fake even poses severe challenges for Protestant



expansion in New Guinea and elsewhere. There, the effort to intentionally

know the internal states of others is considered terribly impolite and improper.

This is the ‘opacity of mind’ problem (Robbins & Rumsey 2008). In other traditions, meanwhile, a ‘fake’ is someone who does not enjoy proper

authorization (Chidester 1996:33). This particular notion of fakery requires a

level of bureaucratic rationalization perhaps typical of only a narrow range of

religious groups. African diasporic traditions in Brazil and the Caribbean, meanwhile, are often oriented around discerning authentic and fake claims of

deep African knowledge, or valid spirit possession performances in ritual

compared with those deemed mere ‘acting’. This is because spirit possession events always suppose a gap between the forensic claim of a god’s true

presence and the inchoate means and measures of determining authentic

presence. The possibility of the fake is ever-present. However, while accusations of fakery may be intended to deauthorize or discredit spirit

possession, they also help to constitute spirit possession as eventful, through

the ‘interpretive ferment’ (Wirtz 2007) its opacity marshals and calls into

being. The ambiguity and uncertainty of genuine spirit-presence lend frisson to the ritual gathering. Working in the Cuban city of Santiago, Kristina Wirtz

explored what she calls the ‘aesthetics of sensibility’, the ways practitioners of

Afro-Cuban religions develop particular techniques of discernment, and skills of perception beginning with bodily sensations like shivers or prickling on the

skin and ascending to full-blown sensations of possession (Wirtz 2007:130-

135). ‘To discern spirits’, Wirtz writes, ‘requires being inculcated into a

culturally-specific phenomenology in which the material effects of immaterial agencies become sensible experiences’ (Wirtz 2014:100).

In addition, Afro-American religions and elsewhere are often heavily

invested in questions of spatial authenticity, or proximity to a putative original in what one might call, following Benjamin (1970), an auratic mode. Is it

genuinely ‘African’? The question sometimes is attached to racial authenticity.

Thus, Roger Bastide, writing on mid-century Brazil, sees commercialized and ‘whitened’ Afro-Brazilian ritual events as necessarily ‘fake’ (Bastide


I am not speaking of the fake candomblés or macumbas opened up nowadays to exploit tourists, sanctuaries that live on the superstition

of whites and concentrate on expensive magic rituals for sensation

seekers and night club patrons. Although these centers may be directed

Paul Christopher Johnson


by mulattoes and offer their sophisticated clientele a ballet performed

by girls who are quite likely to be black, culminating in simulating

African rites, they represent white rather than black religion.

Bastide saw fakeness and authenticity in candomblé in racial terms, and

presumably he was not alone, though it is by now clear that the question of

Africanity may or may not be tethered to social Blackness (Palmié 2002:197; Johnson 2007:217-219).

II. Authenticity Let’s turn now to authenticity, a term Chidester foregrounds as indispensable

to the problem of the fake (Chidester 2005:xii). Chidester observes that fake

religion does ‘authentic’ religious work (Chidester 2005:vii) and, citing Lawrence Grossberg, that there can be (and indeed the U.S. may be essentially

characterized by) ‘authentic inauthenticity’, public and even prideful artifice

rather than covert fraud or dissimulation.

As Chidester (2005:3) notes, authenticity can work under various guises: As transparency, or as a cipher for earnest earthiness (rather like terroir

for wine), the latter a burden under which especially so-called ‘primitive’

societies, and perhaps African societies in particular, have long labored. Many groups compete for prestige in those or similar terms. Scholars of religion

played a heavy hand in reinforcing this kind of status competition over African

authenticity. Melville Herskovits (1941; 1945) famously invoked a dubious comparative register called ‘the scale of intensity of New World Africanisms’.

In Herskovits’ dangerous game, the Maroons of Suriname won first prize,

followed by those of Guiana and, in third place, practitioners of Haitian Vodou.

Many scholars in Brazil as elsewhere, similarly, endorsed the Yoruba-derived practices in the New World as ‘more authentic’ than Kongo-descended ones,

often based on specious Eurocentric analogies of the Yoruba pantheon, or

sculpture, to those of classical Greece or Rome (Johnson 2007:205-214; Capone 2010:206-210; Dantas 1988).

While it is true that this version of authenticity is recurrent in the

African Americas, it seems also typical of diasporic situations in general. The

lurking question of the fake (as adjudicated in relation to the alleged distance



from an ‘original’) always hovers over and around replicant Sikh temples,

Catholic grottos, and traveling Zen masters. Are they real enough? And by

what criteria? Corrosive accusations are likely, especially when there are venues of both touristic and ‘actual’ ritual performance (Chidester 2012:115,

202; Capone 2010:206; Johnson 2002:9, 177), genres that, at least in the

African Americas, in fact are often merged (Hagedorn 2001; Van de Port 2011;

Wirtz 2014). The idea of authenticity gauged as legitimate replication of an original

model is perhaps less at issue, though, for so-called ‘world’ or overtly

‘mission’ traditions – classically, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity – which necessarily imagine their traditions as replicable and detachable from spatial

versions of the authentic local. They embrace artifice as part and parcel of their

global extension. In this sense, Jonathan Smith describes the Reformation as first and foremost a shift in how ritual makes and communicates meaning in

detachable ways. Ritual for the 16th-century reformed Christians was not ‘real’

in a literal, material, and spatial sense; it was rather a matter of ‘signification’

(for Zwingli), or ‘metonymy’ (for Beza). A wedge now divided symbol and reality in Christendom (Smith 1987:100). It narrowed the gap between the fake

and the real with a bridging middle term, ‘the symbolic’.

The point to reinforce here is that different traditions summon distinct versions of authenticity, and attribute authenticity with varying levels of value.

In so doing they inscribe particular contents and edges of the inchoate, in

relation to given ritual processes. In spite of this diversity, though, one should

not lose sight of a key comparative hinge: Potential fakery is part of the furniture of every religious enactment. In fact, it is a necessary prop, the empty

box in the middle of the stage. The box is built to different specifications

depending on the tradition. Learning how the box is built is part and parcel of understanding and interpreting a given religious practice. There are at least two

parts to this hermeneutic problem: One is learning how specific versions of

fakecraft help to make and maintain insider definitions of shared terms of a tradition; the second is seeing how the different constructions of the box are

used to mark and patrol the boundaries between religions.


Let’s consider several versions of authenticity available for activation in

religious practice. One kind of authenticity is continuity over time between

Paul Christopher Johnson


something in the present and in the past (Is that authentically Victorian? Is this

truly biblical?), or a relative identity across space (the authentic Turkish song;

the genuinely African initiation). Either something now is sufficiently like it was then, or something here is sufficiently like things there. Authenticity may

also describe the relative degree of conformity between outside appearance and

an actual internal veracity. On that score, Lionel Trilling calls Wordsworth’s

protagonist in the poem ‘Michael’ a first exemplar of literary authenticity (Trilling 1972:93): As he sits grieving the death of his son, he radiates nothing

but grief. There is no dissimulation or distraction, no mask. He is transparent,

authentic, ‘truly himself’. All of the above senses of authenticity-as-identity raise the question of

the relative continuity of an object, idea or person with an original (Benjamin

1970:220). Yet even that notion of ‘originality’ is fluid. Raymond Williams, to wit, describes the key transition from the term ‘original’ as denoting a point in

time from which all things arose, to the denotation of that which is singular –

a shift that took place in the late 17th century (Williams 1983:230). Williams

shows how singularity carries both temporal and spatial connotations. It marks a thing, person or event as utterly discrete, as thoroughly situated. Such notions

of singularity, originality, and realness are expressions of spatial power; they

found and justify ‘centers’ and ‘peripheries’ (Long 2004:92). Authenticity as originality or as singularity supposes a need for

continuity maintained across time and space by reference to singular beings

and spatial centers. As a discourse, however – and to follow the familiar

foucauldian argument – it presupposes rupture, a crisis of continuity overcome only with the labor of memory and language. Authenticity is a noun that only

thinly veils a question or a wish.


Another vector of the fake and the authentic applied in religions is the question of sufficient likeness or, in other terms, the adequacy of mimesis (Taussig

1993). Walter Benjamin’s essay, The work of art in the age of mechanical

reproduction (1970) remains the touchstone essay on this problem. The essay

treats the dislocation of art objects from a denotation of situated, local things to a series of reproducible and transmissible images. Benjamin’s primary data

was the move from the painting to the film, but here I seek to draw an analogy



to the move from indigenous to diasporic styles of ritualization, vis à vis

Benjamin’s problematic of the aura.

In Benjamin’s description, ‘the presence of the original [object] is the prerequisite to the concept of authenticity…The authenticity of a thing is the

essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning, ranging from its

substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced’

(Benjamin 1970:220-221). (This is roughly what Max Weber referred to as ‘authentic transmission’, delivered ‘by a closed chain of witnesses’ – Weber

1954:206.) Benjamin’s argument proceeds: With the dislocation of paintings

from the sites where they were embedded, in a given church for example, to reprints, authenticity shifts from being a relatively given temporal essence to

something achieved and authorized. It becomes a special effect. The crisis that

may result, derives from the fact that even as authentic objects must now be authorized to achieve their effects, ‘history’ itself is anchored by nothing but

those once-authorizing objects – objects that authorize history by virtue

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