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Browsing by Author "Oikarinen, Inka"

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  • Oikarinen, Inka (2020)
    In recent decades there has been a revival of customs and traditions among several indigenous Amazonian peoples, one feature of which is the strengthening of many shamanic practices repressed and partially abandoned under colonial rule. For the Yawanawa people of Acre, Brazil, annual cultural festivals have become a prominent symbol of cultural revitalization. Festivals enable an international audience to experience a live tradition in the form of song, dance, games, art and crafts as well as shamanic rituals and substances. In the context of shamanic ritual, the terms medicine and healing are some of the prominent discourses through which shamanic networks connect and alliances are created between visitors and the Yawanawa. The present study looks at the understandings of health and wellbeing of non-indigenous persons participating in contemporary shamanic networks in Amazonia. The aim of the study is to describe how knowledge of Yawanawa shamanic practices affects understandings of health, sickness and healing. My research questions are: 1) What are the meanings assigned to health and illness in Amazonian sociophilosophies and those of the Yawanawa people? 2) How do Western people practicing Amazonian shamanism perceive health and illness, and how do their understandings relate to those present in Yawanawa shamanism? 3) What constitute the main elements of healing in Yawanawa shamanism? My primary research data consists of six thematic interviews with non-indigenous people practicing and studying Yawanawa shamanism. I will employ two theoretical approaches to frame the analysis. The study locates in medical anthropology which examines concepts around health, illness and healing and their cultural and social diversity. I will refer to the framework of subjective theories of health by Schmid (2010, 2011) to view individual health-related understandings as subjective meaning-making frameworks that resemble but are not reduced to scientific medical theories. Indigenous relational philosophies of health comprise the second theoretical framework, through which the Yawanawa medical system and shamanism will be understood as consisting of the creation and management of harmonious relationships with both human and nonhuman actors. Literature review represents Amazonian shamanism as an interconnected world with a visible and invisible side. Health for indigenous peoples is based on a relational cosmovision where principles of right relationship and reciprocity are recreated at social, ecological and cosmological levels. Wellbeing is a co-created, shared resource as well as the result of successful negotiation with nonhuman beings with potentially conflicting interests. For the Yawanawa, health is defined through the balanced relations of bodies and souls that constitute a human person, as well as creating a distinct Yawanawa identity through embodied means. Traditional Yawanawa shamanism equally relies on the transformation of the body and its different capacities through removal and adding of substances. More recently, the changes occurring in Amazonian shamanic practices have been characterized by increased interconnectedness and exchange on a global level with an increase in shamanic tourism and neo-shamanic movements alongside the practice of indigenous shamanism. Non-local neo-shamanic activities, such as the ritual consumption of ayahuasca for self-healing, have been criticized as reflecting a western, individualistic worldview that does not recognize the relational, intersubjective dimensions of shamanism. Similarly, the elements of Amazonian shamanism undergo a translation that includes the medicalization and commercialization of ayahuasca as well as a tendency to psychologize shamanic experiences with nonhumans. Analysis of the interview data shows that the understandings of health of shamanic practitioners reflect a relational worldview that shares several elements with indigenous socio-philosophies of health. For the study participants, shamanism offers an alternative worldview and framework for understanding wellbeing compared to that of biomedicine characterized by scientific reductionism. A central effect of maintaining relational conceptions of health can be seen in an expanded view of the determinants of health. Individual wellbeing is defined holistically as the balance between the physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of a person. At the same time consideration of elements and actors affecting health is spread horizontally to include relations between individual and their social and intergenerational ties, as well as ecological ties to the nonhuman world which includes other species as well as invisible beings of the spirit world. There is an individualistic orientation present whereby individual responsibility and autonomy are considered as important determinants of wellbeing. Interviewees also recognize some differences between their views and those of the Yawanawa regarding the agency of nonhuman beings. However, the study concludes that practicing and studying shamanism is not merely an egoistic pursuit for the study participants, but increased understanding of the principles of Amazonian shamanism and worldviews shows in an expanded awareness of relational ties in both shamanic cosmology as well as in interpersonal ties with the Yawanawa and Amazonian peoples. This is also reflected in the way the elements of healing in shamanism are understood as containing both subjective and intersubjective elements.