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The Language of Religious Innovation: Spirit Possession and Exorcism in a Malaysian Catholic Pentecostal Movement

S. E. Ackerman
Journal of Anthropological Research
Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring, 1981), pp. 90-100
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3629517
Page Count: 11
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
The Language of Religious Innovation: Spirit Possession and Exorcism in a Malaysian Catholic Pentecostal Movement
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Abstract

This paper examines spirit possession in relation to concepts of power that provide a focus for the redefinition of problematic relationships of concern to Catholic Pentecostals. Important continuities between folk traditions of supernaturalism and the conceptual structure underlying Catholic Pentecostalism in Malaysia are illustrated in the career histories of three Catholic exorcists. It will be argued that traditional cultural categories--spirit possession and exorcism--form the conceptual basis of the ideology and activities of religious innovation among Malaysian Catholics. The conceptual boundaries of four problematic relationships are redefined through discourse centered on the control of spiritual forces. Unlike previous studies that emphasize cathartic and system-maintaining functions, or the structures of collective representations underlying the spirit possession idiom, this essay directs attention towards spirit possession as an idom of power through which innovations are articulated.

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