The Undead Genealogy: Omnipresence, Spirit Perspectives, and a Case of Mongolian Vampirism

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15 Citations (Scopus)


This article gives the sequel to a case study on magical innovation introduced earlier in the JRAI, and shows that Buryat Mongol shamans regularly deflect hostile forces by adopting spirit perspectives. Presenting new ethnography on Buryat vampiric imps and an episode of intra-familial vampirism, the article argues that, in Buryat sociality, anyone – including omnipresent spirits – may cross the virtuous-unvirtuous divide. In northeast Mongolia, Buryats consider that close ancestral spirits watch after their descendants, whereas distant ancestral spirits manage a spirit bureaucracy. Building on Viveiros de Castro's work on perspectivism, the article thus proposes that close spirit perspectives entail an ‘intimacy affect’ while distant spirit perspectives entail a ‘virtuosity affect’. Buryat shamans sometimes oscillate between these perspectives to access both spirit intimacy and virtuosity. The article culminates by demonstrating how a Buryat shaman used intimacy and virtuosity to expunge her mother's ex-husband and his undead relatives from the patriline.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberN/A
Pages (from-to)843-864
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2008


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