Ulrich Van Loyen
ifk Research Fellow

Duration of fellowship
01. October 2022 bis 31. January 2023

Nachkriegsschamanismus. Zu einer Geschichte postkolonialer Selbstbeschreibung des Westens


By looking at visual art, literature, and scholarly research, the project uncovers evidence that modern shamanism was largely a cultural appropriation of the postwar and Cold-War era. Shamanistic configurations were often shaped by representatives of nations with fascist histories (Italy, Germany, Romania), thus providing exculpating roles as members (and self-designated spokespersons) of an international indigenous community in debates about cultural identity and self-determination. By decontextualizing historical shamanism, artists including Joseph Beuys and Nam Jun Paik, as well as scholars such as Mircea Eliade, Ernesto de Martino, and Wilhelm E. Mühlmann not only contributed to a »culture of defeat« (Wolfgang Schivelbusch), but moreover provided Germans, Italians, Romanians, Koreans, and even Japanese with a postcolonial self-description. The project aims to reconstruct the aforementioned »invention of tradition« in the early 1950s and 1960s, while also reflecting on Elias Canetti’s and Konrad Bayer’s deconstruction of fascism and the Cold War in shamanistic terms.



Ulrich van Loyen was born in Dresden and received his Ph.D. in German literature with a dissertation on the Prague poet and Oxford anthropologist Franz Baermann Steiner. He holds a second Ph.D. in social anthropology on patronage and its critique, as well as on the relationship between new technological and old personal media in Neapolitan cults. Recent book publications: Neapels Unterwelt. Über die Möglichkeit einer Stadt [Neapolitan Underworld. On the Possibility of a City], Berlin 2018; Italian translation in 2020; Der Pate und sein Schatten. Die Literatur der Mafia [The Godfather and His Shadow. The Mafiosi and Their Literature], Berlin 2021.


Der Pate und sein Schatten. Die Literatur der Mafia, Berlin 2021; hg. mit Andrea Benedetti, The Mediterranean as a Source of Cultural Criticism: Myth, Literature, Anthropology, Mailand 2019; Neapels Unterwelt. Über die Möglichkeit einer Stadt, Berlin 2018 (it. Übersetzung 2020); Strände der Vernunft. Norbert Elias im inneren Afrika, Berlin 2012.

21 November 2022
  • Lecture
IFK & IFK@Zoom
Ulrich van Loyen

Schamanismus und die Kultur der Niederlage

Wenngleich die Erforschung des zirkumpolaren Schamanismus bereits im späten 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert mit der Nobilitierung »anderer Zustände« einhergegangen war, fällt ein großer Teil seiner Faszinationsgeschichte in die Zeit nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg.