Severi, Carlo

Severi, Carlo – Director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) social anthropology workshop in Paris. Severi has studied Native American shamanistic traditions and dressing rites in Oceania. The subtitle of one of his publications serves as an umbrella unifying the diversity of his interests: “A Cognitive Approach to Cultural Complexity.” He is particularly interested in the transmission of cultural and ritual knowledge and has done research among the Kuna in Panama and then more widely. He discusses various ways in which shamanic indigenous traditions have engaged with Christianity, sometimes opposing Christian proselytism but sometimes adopting Christianity’s rhetorics and/or rituals to enhance and preserve indigenous knowledge and practices. Severi contests the notion that these are “syncretistic” or inauthentic movements and presents evidence that contributes to understanding the political roles played by shamans, especially when confronted by colonialism. In the same article, he argues that however important indigenous terms translated by “soul” might be, they are almost always fluid and open to a wide semantic range and diverse uses. They may not be precise scientific terms but they permit a range of communication about important topics not only to do with healing but also with being a respectful and mature person.


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


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