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Shamanism and Its Discontents

Michael Fobes Brown
Medical Anthropology Quarterly
New Series, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Jun., 1988), pp. 102-120
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/649156
Page Count: 19
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Shamanism and Its Discontents
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Abstract

Shamanistic healing is often represented in the anthropological literature as a dyadic transactional process in which the shaman helps the patient find meaning in the face of the disordering impact of an illness. A close textual analysis of a curing session among the Aguaruna Jívaro of Peru reveals that the experience created through the ritual is markedly polyphonic rather than dyadic, the clients subtly vying with the shaman to shape the session's discursive contours. While generating a highly charged atmosphere, the event's fusion of political and medical themes betrays the contradictions inherent in a belief system in which shamanism and sorcery are inescapably linked. While there may be a degree of symbolic closure in the session itself, the shaman's revelations only shift disorder from the body human to the body politic.

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