SOAS University of London

Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

Itako: Visions (2017)

Dr Marianna Zanetta and Mr Edmondo Perrone

Date: 1 March 2018Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 1 March 2018Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: SALT

Type of Event: Seminar


Screening of the documentary film and post-screening round-table with Dr Marianna Zanetta (anthropologist) and Mr Edmondo Perrone (director)

Film Description

In northeast Japan one still finds a particular kind of female shamans, called itako イタコ. Blind since birth, or from a very young age, they “choose” to become shamans as a consequence of their physical disability. Itako have often been the target of controversies and debates among anthropologists and scholars of religions, who have questioned the authenticity of their shamanic experience and even the possibility to include them in an analysis of shamanism. Yet their role and their path resonate with shamanic experience. Itako undertake a long period of physical and spiritual training that culminates in an initiation ceremony, where the apprentice symbolically dies in order to gain a new life as a religious specialist. Their activities have a particular functional focus: the communication with the dead, in particular with the ones we may call “angry ghosts”, souls who cannot find peace and represent a threat to the living. An important duty of itako is to allow angry ghosts to communicate with their living relatives in order to have their needs satisfied and their anguish eased.

Speakers' Biographies

Marianna Zanetta obtained a PhD degree in Religious Anthropology and Far Eastern Studies at the Ècole Pratique des Hautes Ètudes (Sorbonne) in Paris in 2016, with a research project on Japanese shamanism. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Japan since 2012. She is currently affiliated with CRCAO (East Asian Civilisations Research Centre) in Paris and with the Department of Culture, Politics and Society at University of Turin. Her first monograph on mizuko kuyo is forthcoming from the Italian publisher Franco Angeli.

Edmondo Perrone is a web designer, camera operator, photography director for short films and photographer. He is currently a partner of the independent producers “AUT Films”, specialised in documentary films about people and their dreams. The present film is his first work as a director of a full-length documentary.

Organiser: Centre for the Study of Japanese Religions

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