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...

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