13 November: The Ang-a Mode of Animation: The Granting of Agency in Chinese/Taiwanese Religious, Artistic, and Economic Practice

Lecture by Teri Silvio, Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan.


15.00-17.00 hrs

Arsenaal Room 001
Arsenaalstraat 1
2311 CT Leiden 


This paper is part of a book I am writing which attempts to outline an anthropological theory of animation, which I define as the process of projecting qualities perceived as human outside of the self and into the environment.  My hope is that animation might serve as a complement to “performance,” a conceptual platform which allows us to compare practices across different social fields, different cultures, and different historical eras – to allow us, for instance, to look for cultural logics connecting such diverse phenomena as Hello Kitty, the United States Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, zombie movies, emoticons, and drone warfare.

In this paper, I outline a particular mode of animation which runs through Taiwanese religious, artistic, and economic practices.  I define a “mode” of animation as an assemblage of genres and practices held together by which qualities of human existence they treat as projectable, by how projection is accomplished, by what kinds of non-human objects are taken to be animatable, and by specific structures of feeling they evoke.  I posit a Taiwanese/Chinese mode of animation which centers on a specific type of object, called ang-a in Holo or ou in Mandarin -- a small, three-dimensional, human-form (or anthropomorphized animal or object-form) figure.  The ang-a is invested with  specific human qualities – personality, affect, and charisma --  through specific types of actions – ritual, iconographic, and communicational practices.

Since most theorizing of animation has been done in the United States and Japan, I want to highlight the differences between the ang-a mode of animation and concepts of animation grounded in monotheistic or animist cosmologies -- that is, the idea that animation is “playing God” on the one hand, and the idea that all things in the world already have souls on the other.

Last Modified: 05-10-2015