In Darkness and Secrecy brings together ethnographic examinations of Amazonian assault sorcery, witchcraft, and injurious magic, or "dark shamanism." Anthropological reflections on South American shamanism have tended to emphasize shamans' healing powers and positive influence. This collection challenges that assumption by showing that dark shamans are, in many Amazonian cultures, quite different from shamanic healers and prophets. Assault sorcery, in particular, involves violence resulting in physical harm or even death. While highlighting the distinctiveness of such practices, In Darkness and Secrecy reveals them as no less relevant to the continuation of culture and society than curing and prophecy. The contributors suggest that the persistence of dark shamanism can be understood as a form of engagement with modernity. These essays, by leading anthropologists of South American shamanism, consider assault sorcery as it is practiced in parts of Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Peru.
They analyze the social and political dynamics of witchcraft and sorcery and their relation to cosmology, mythology, ritual, and other forms of symbolic violence and aggression in each society studied.They also discuss the relations of witchcraft and sorcery to interethnic contact and the ways that shamanic power may be co-opted by the state. In Darkness and Secrecy includes reflections on the ethical and practical implications of ethnographic investigation of violent cultural practices. Contributors: George Mentore; Donald Pollock; Fernando Santos-Granero; Marnio Teixeira-Pinto; Silvia Vidal; Neil L. Whitehead; Johannes Wilbert; Robin Wright
Neil L. Whitehead is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Among his most recent books are Dark Shamans: Kanaima and the Poetics of Violent Death (published by Duke University Press) and Beyond the Visible and the Material: The Amerindianization of Society in the Work of Peter Riviere (coedited with Laura Rival).Robin Wright is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Research in Indigenous Ethnology at the Universidade Estadual de Campinas in Brazil. He is the author of Cosmos, Self, and History in Baniwa Religion: For Those Unborn and the editor of several books in Spanish.