chapter  5
44 Pages


The analysis presented in Chapter 4 showed how the emergence in history of an alliance between indigenists and environmentalists generated a symbolic economy of indigenous authenticity that represented indigenous ontological alterity as ecocentric disposition. This economy endures today, and ecocentric disposition as the measure of indigenous ontological alterity remains a compelling image as the Ramunangi and FSS examples illustrate. Typically, this disposition is identified with an indigenous world-view or cosmovision in which indigenous peoples’ ecological and spiritual proximity to nature is both a kind of identity and a site of difference: a laudable fact and an aspirational desire, and a means to an end. However, if ecocentric disposition signifies a kind of difference with reference to anthropocentrism, fundamentally this difference pertains to a relation between a human body and nature, where the difference pertains specifically to a relaxing of distinctions and enhancing of mediations between an embodied self and the natural world so that they may form an identity. As we saw with the Awas Tingni case discussed in Chapter 3, shamanism’s discursive language is amenable to representing these mediations by emphasising shamans’ relations with spirits, including spirits associated with specific plants, animals, topographical features of landscapes and ancestors residing there. In the present chapter, I want to consider the reverse perspective by paying attention to shamans’ relations with their body. If, in the wake of the indigenist-environmentalist alliance, shamanism signifies a difference between worlds oriented by anthropocentrism and ecocentrism, then the shamans’ body has become a figure of this mediation. However, read in tandem with the neoliberal critique of labour, shamans’ ability to engage with spirits can be recast as a form of embodied capital that can be invested to generate an income stream over time. Indeed, the various discussions presented in this chapter argue that this is precisely what is happening.