Fausto, Carlos

Fausto, Carlos – In an important article with particular reference to the Parakanã, Fausto defines Amazonian shamanism as “predatory animism.” In an elucidating comment, he contrasts neoshamanism, which is “turned on the remodeling of individual subjectivities,” with Amazonian shamanism, “concerned with producing new persons and social relationships from the stock of human and nonhuman subjectivities existing in the cosmos.” Fausto also notes that these understandings of shamanism are distinguished by the use or avoidance of blood and tobacco. He might also have listed vomiting as a distinguishing sign. Fausto’s understanding of animism, like that of Irving Hallowell and Nurit Bird-David, is that it is a view of the cosmos as being full of persons, only some of whom are human. But, he argues, the problem of “interacting verbally and establishing relationships of adoption or alliance” that enable shamans to “act on the world in order to cure, to fertilize, and to kill” (i.e., quintessentially shamanic engagements) is that persons (intentional agents) can either act on or be acted upon by others. In Amazonian understandings, people can either be predators or prey. By initiation and increasing skill, shamans become expert at gaining and controlling “a surplus of intentionality and agency” and an ability to see and use the perspective of the Other, especially of enemies. Predation links shamans with jaguars and other powerful other-than-human persons, as well as with hunters and warriors, as is demonstrated by discourses and, perhaps, practices involving the consumption of blood. Similarly, the use of tobacco is a transformative act that first initiates and later enables shamans to see like or as jaguars. This alteration of perspective is also discussed by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro.


Historical Dictionary of Shamanism by Graham Harvey and Robert J. Wallis 2007