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Vitalism, Sacrifice and Utopia in Stromboli

Vitalism, Sacrifice, and Utopia. A Workshop on the Human Impetus

Ginostra, Stromboli, Italy, 18-19 June 2016

Convenors: Bjørn Bertelsen, Giovanni da Col, Ruy Blanes

Among the many turns haunting anthropology, in recent years the return of life has not left the discipline unscathed. There is a new kind of vitalism and animism in the air, inhabiting the cultural and social sphere and remaining well beyond the analytic scope of commodity fetishism. This workshop aims neo-vitalist ideologies are embedded in contemporary utopian configurations. We find this vitalism in egalitarian ideologies, religious expectations, sacrificial logics, bodily practices, terrorist acts, and protests: products of vitalist economy immanent in a reality that is constantly being shaped rather than transcendent from it. This in turn means seeing what we are used to calling “utopias” as, above all, the effects of the pursuit of forms of vitalist value which may achieved through private or public forms of sacrifice or activities such as gambling, high-risk financial trading, self- immolations or other forms of seemingly reckless investment where what is invested is not just money or property but one’s life. Our goal with this workshop is to engage in an anthropology that can account on contemporary neo-vitalist and sacrificial “modes of productions”, discuss the conceptual and analytic possibilities and limitations of such an approach and study the generative, transformational, creative ground of today’s utopian formations.




Giovanni da Col

Time and Tide: the measure of vitality in the Outer Hebrides

Magnus Course

Remarks on the reunification of art and life

Roger Sansi

Sacrifice and Vitality in China

Michael Puett

A lesser human? A paradox of Anthropocene vitalism

Bjørn Enge Bertelsen

Ritual Terroir (Note: Not ‘Ritual Terror!): The Generation of Site-Specific Vitality

Adam Chau

Killing Animals

Webb Keane

“Spiritual Warfare” on Multi-religious Terrain: Competing Political Cosmologies in Postwar Sri Lanka

Neena Mahadev

The optimistic utopia: sacrifice and expectations of political transformation in the Angolan Revolutionary Movement

Ruy Llera Blanes

Vocation and sacrifice in political activism: past utopias, present love

Sian Lazar

Pacifists Utopias: life and death in a Second World War ambulance unit

Toby Kelly

Utopia and Dystopia.

Alpa Shah


Event sponsored by the University of Bergen, EASA Networks and HAU: Journal of Ethnograpic Theory.