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ReligionMaterial Dynamics$
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David Chidester

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297654

Published to California Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297654.001.0001

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(p.139) 11 Shamans

David Chidester

University of California Press

This chapter considers shamans in their circulations through colonial situations. As a characteristic feature of shamanism, mobility is evident in the shaman’s capacity to move between worlds—the material and the spiritual—but also in moving between central and marginal positions under the impact of various imperial impositions and colonial situations. The Chinese and Russian empires, for example, dramatically altered shamanic geography, restricting freedom of movement in ways that directly affected spiritual mobility. In competitions over sacred geography and sacred resources, the Chinese and Russian empires altered the mediating roles of Siberian shamans. As the term shaman circulated as a generic term for a religious specialist in other parts of the world, Europeans associated shamans with wild and dangerous spiritual forces. Under colonial conditions, features associated with shamanism, such as spiritual travel, healing, indigenous memory, and secrecy, changed into strategies of opposition to the incursions of alien political and religious forces.

Keywords:   Chinese empire, colonialism, indigenous religion, mobility, Russian empire, sacred space, secrecy, shamans, Siberia, wild

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