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On the Importance of Visions among the Amazonian Shuar

Steven Lee Rubenstein
Current Anthropology
Vol. 53, No. 1 (February 2012), pp. 39-79
DOI: 10.1086/663830
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/663830
Page Count: 41
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
On the Importance of Visions among the Amazonian
                    Shuar
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Abstract

This essay involves a set of speculations concerning the role plant-granted visions play in the formation of the Shuar subject. It also reflects on the need for an ethnography of secrecy and the ineffable. In both these tasks I seek to engage psychoanalytic theory. Jacques Lacan’s distinction between the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic helps analyze the relationship between the discourse and the silence of the unconscious. His essay on the “mirror stage” is useful for thinking about bourgeois subjectivity. Nevertheless, I argue that premissionization Shuar did not go through the mirror stage. First, I argue that Shuar practices effected the colonization of the Symbolic by the Real, in contrast to bourgeois culture, in which the Symbolic colonizes the Real. Then I explore the role of desire, violence, and speech in the construction of different kinds of power. Pierre Clastres’ work helps to explore how these two cultures clash and articulate on the colonization frontier, while psychoanalytic theory adds to Clastres a theory of the subject. Ultimately, this article is an experiment in acknowledging the psychic unity of humanity—while at the same time illuminating the differences between the state and societies against the state.

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