The definition of religion is still debated within both the humanities and social sciences. Agency, too, has been theorized from a variety of approaches. Both notions of agency and religion challenge us to think deeply about what it means to be human. Or the nearhuman, in the case of Automatic Religion. Paul Christopher Johnson closely examines the entanglement of nearhuman agency and what he calls “religion-like situations” at the tail end of the nineteenth century in Brazil and France. For Johnson, “religion twists and jerks in a tug-of-war between automatism and agency” (2). He demonstrates this by analyzing specific diagnostic events, researched through a combination of archival and ethnographic methods. These events include a French psychiatric patient’s visions; a photograph of an infamous Brazilian sorcerer with seemingly supernatural power; a drawing of a slave whose image becomes that of a saint; an automaton chess player; and a medium for...
Skip Nav Destination
Book Review| May 01 2022
Review: Automatic Religion: Nearhuman Agents of Brazil and France, by Paul Christopher Johnson
Automatic Religion: Nearhuman Agents of Brazil and France. By Paul Christopher Johnson.
University of Chicago Press,
2021. 312 pages. $105.00 hardcover; $35.00 softcover; open access and ebook available.
Nova Religio (2022) 25 (4): 128–130.
- Views Icon Views
- Share Icon Share
- Search Site
Tarryl Janik; Review: Automatic Religion: Nearhuman Agents of Brazil and France, by Paul Christopher Johnson. Nova Religio 1 May 2022; 25 (4): 128–130. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nr.2022.25.4.128
Download citation file: