Karin Harrasser

Jesuit Drag. Priests as Shamans, Shamans as Priests


When Jesuit missionaries developed the “accommodation method” as a core element of their missionary practice in the barocque era, it was not the modern idea of ethnicity that drove the othering-machine but religion. When the missionaries included – at least some of – the cultures they encountered into their program in order to facilitate the transmission of faith, they did that in a quite functional way but with unforeseeable effects. By translating holy words into foreign tongues but also by (partial) recognition of customs and traditions an – of course highly unequal – trading zone, a zone of risky cultural appropriation took shape in which catholic priests voluntarily or involuntarily acted as shamans and shamans performed as priests. I want to explore this uneven territory in order to flesh out the mechanisms of the cultural violence in missionary activities and its legacies up to the present.


Karin Harrasser is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Art and Design Linz and Vice Rector for Research there. She received her doctorate in 2005 with a dissertation on the narratives of digital cultures at the University of Vienna. Her habilitation at the Humboldt University in Berlin focused on "Prostheses. Figures of wounded modernity" (published 2016 by Vorwerk 8 Berlin). In addition to her academic activities, she has been involved in various artistic-curatorial projects, e.g. at Kampnagel Hamburg, Tanzquartier Wien or with MAPA Teatro and the Colombian Truth Commission in Bogotá. Her research currently focuses on asymmetrical cultural transfers between Europe and South America and the relationship between globalization and contemporary history.