Attuning to the webs of en: Ontography, japanese spirit worlds and the "tact" of Minakata Kumagusu

Casper Bruun Jensen, Miho Ishii, Philip Swift


An experiment in ethnographic theory, this article aims to finds new ways of getting Japanese spirit worlds into view. In the attempt to find ways of repopulating spirit worlds with more than beliefs, socioeconomic realities, and politics, the broader “ontographic” issue is how to facilitate engagement with spirits in a way that is not overdetermined by the assumption that such entities do not really exist. After examining how Japanese folklore studies and so-called “monsterology” framed their questions around concerns with beliefs, we explore the thought of the maverick scientist Minakata Kumagusu. In his work we find an original, proto-ontological perspective, centering on “tactful” encounters and modes of attunement unfolding in cosmic webs of en.


spirit worlds, ontography, Japan, animism, tact

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau6.2.012