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Animism in Rainforest and Tundra: Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia

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Animism in Rainforest and Tundra

Personhood, Animals, Plants and Things in Contemporary Amazonia and Siberia

Edited by Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti, and Olga Ulturgasheva
Foreword by Stephen Hugh-Jones
Afterword by Piers Vitebsky

226 pages, 6 figures, 2 maps, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-468-3 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (August 2012)

ISBN  978-1-78238-524-0 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (February 2014)

eISBN 978-0-85745-469-0 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook! $29.95 Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“This thoughtful volume is extraordinarily rich and will prompt all of us interested in these questions to think about them from fresh perspectives.” • Anthropological Forum

“This is an extremely interesting collection of papers which takes our understanding of animism forward considerably. Pre-scientific ideas abound in religion. The Bible's focus on sacrifice has roots here, and what is 'idolatry' but nature religion giving human characteristics to divinities and even trees, the Asherah.” • Journal of Beliefs and Values

“This exciting book…offers an excellent introduction to the main theoretical problem that the book addresses—“the anthropology of nature.”… there is a lot of rich material here on how Siberian and Amazonian peoples create lives and communities out of inter-species relations and inter-species communicative practices that involve rural, frontier landscapes…I highly recommend this book for its rich ethnography and theory, and for its fruitful comparative perspective.” • Sibirica


Amazonia and Siberia, classic regions of shamanism, have long challenged ‘western’ understandings of man’s place in the world. By exploring the social relations between humans and non-human entities credited with human-like personhood (not only animals and plants, but also ‘things’ such as artifacts, trade items, or mineral resources) from a comparative perspective, this volume offers valuable insights into the constitutions of humanity and personhood characteristic of the two areas. The contributors conducted their ethnographic fieldwork among peoples undergoing transformative processes of their lived environments, such as the depletion of natural resources and migration to urban centers. They describe here fundamental relational modes that are being tested in the face of change, presenting groundbreaking research on personhood and agency in shamanic societies and contributing to our global understanding of social and cultural change and continuity.

Marc Brightman is Marie Curie Intra-European Fellow at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva and Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford.

Vanessa Elisa Grotti is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Research Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford University.

Olga Ulturgasheva is Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the Scott Polar Research Institute and Clare Hall, University of Cambridge.

Subject: Religion Environmental Studies General Anthropology
Area: Latin America


List of Figures

Stephen Hugh-Jones


Introduction: Animism and Invisible Worlds: The Place of Non-humans in Indigenous Ontologies
Marc Brightman, Vanessa Elisa Grotti and Olga Ulturgasheva

Chapter 1. Too Many Owners: Mastery and Ownership in Amazonia
Carlos Fausto

Chapter 2. Revisiting the Animism versus Totemism Debate: Fabricating Persons among the Eveny and Chukchi of North-eastern Siberia
Rane Willerslev and Olga Ulturgasheva

Chapter 3. Animism and the Meanings of Life: Reflections from Amazonia
Laura Rival

Chapter 4. Stories about Evenki People and their Dogs: Communication through Sharing Contexts
Tatiana Safonova and István Sántha

Chapter 5. Making Animals into Food among the Kanamari of Western Amazonia
Luiz Costa

Chapter 6. 'Spirit-charged' Animals in Siberia
Alexandra Lavrillier

Chapter 7. Shamans, Animals and Enemies: Human and Non-Human Agency in an Amazonian Cosmos of Alterity
Casey High

Chapter 8. Expressions and Experiences of Personhood: Spatiality and Objects in the Nenets Tundra Home
Vera Skvirskaja

Chapter 9. Humanity, Personhood and Transformability in Northern Amazonia
Vanessa Elissa Grotti and Marc Brightman

Chapter 10. Masked Predation, Hierarchy and the Scaling of Extractive Relations in Inner Asia and Beyond
Katherine Swancutt

Piers Vitebsky

Notes on Contributors

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