Chicago Hilton: Joliet Room

Friday November 22, 2013

4:00 PM-5:45 PM

The interrelationship between the brain, human consciousness, and experience has long been a mystery, a proverbial black box. Insights from cognitive neuroscience have significantly advanced our understanding, demonstrating a complex interaction between biology and the environment. Rather than presenting reductionist or deterministic models of human behavior, neuroscience points to the role of environment and experience in shaping brain development and operation. For decades, the Anthropology of Consciousness has taken interdisciplinary dialogue with neuroscience and psychology as a prerequisite for understanding human consciousness across cultures and time. This panel extends this dialogue to neuroanthropology, building upon recent findings to revisit fundamental aspects of humanity such as: 1) The relationship between brain and consciousness 2) The boundaries of consciousness 3) What it is that experiences the world 4) How experience conditions consciousness and/or the brain This session explores anthropological research that integrates and challenges received notions of human consciousness, the brain, and experience. Panelists include experts in consciousness theory, neuroanthropology, medical and cultural anthropology, religion, and paranormal experience. Participants explore the boundaries and limits of consciousness, the implications of Buddhist constructs of No-Self, correlates between meditative and shamanic experiences, semiotic models of consciousness and experience, and the neuroscience of near-death experiences. Each of these presentations considers the implications of neuroscience in anthropology. Rather than privileging strictly biological or cultural explanations for human behavior, this panel looks to the nexus of interaction between biology and the world to examine domains of cultural experience that resist explanation. As such, this panel is a response to the recent call for inclusion, collaboration and engagement with neurobiology. Through such an interdisciplinary approach, we can penetrate the black box of human consciousness and reach more nuanced understandings of the relationship between nature and nature, symbol and experience.   [Originally Published in the AAA 2013 Conference Program]

Panel ChairGreg J Downey Jr (Macquarie University)

Panel Organizer: Bryan Rill (Florida State University)

DiscussantsAndreas Roepstorff (Aarhus University)

Presenters:Christopher D Lynn (University of Alabama); M. Diane Hardgrave (Southern Methodist University); Jeffery L MacDonald (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization); Charles D Laughlin (Carleton University); Bryan Rill (Florida State University)

Presentations Include:

Defraying the Costs of “Analysis Paralysis”: A Neuroanthropological Model of Dissociation, Deafferentation, and Trance
Christopher D Lynn (University of Alabama)

A Neuroanthropological Comparison of Anomalous Experiences During Meditation and Ethnographic Accounts of Shamanic Flight
M. Diane Hardgrave (Southern Methodist University)

Reexamining Near-Death and Other Experiences of the Beyond in Cultural Perspective: Implications for the Anthropology of Consciousness
Jeffery L MacDonald (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization)

You Are the Mountain: Modeling Religious Experience in Light of Cognitive Neuroscience
Bryan Rill (Florida State University)