Stutley, Margaret

Stutley, Margaret – In her short volume on shamanism, Stutley states that shamanism is “one of the world’s most ancient, notorious and frequently misrepresented spiritual traditions,” but Shamanism: An Introduction (2003) is problematic in not offering convincing corrections to this imbalance. Instead, the book reifies the modernist principle of identifying similarities across space and time as an “urshamanism.” Claiming that “recent research indicates that shamanism represents the earliest religious experiences of mankind and therefore is important for the understanding of all human culture” (4), Stutley neglects the diversity of shamanisms, not to mention human cultures more generally, in favor of a metanarrative that locates “shamanism” as the single primordial, primitive religion and the origin of religion. In the vein of Mircea Eliade, this approach tells us very little about shamans in their specific community contexts or about the complexity of engagements between shamans and their communities. Furthermore, there is no discussion of postcolonial shamanism or the dynamic, if controversial, interface between indigenous shamans and neo-shamans. Rather than informing us about shamans past and present, this approach epitomizes the positioning of shamanism as “one of the phenomena against which modern western civilization has defined itself” (Hutton 2001, viii).


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


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