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Thread: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

  1. #51
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    Is this a genuine question? Or are you trying to get us into a cultural appropriation debate? I'm just asking because a proper answer with specifics is going to take some time and the PC and I'm not inclined to do it if this is not a genuine discussion point. And I find it very difficult to believe that you have no concept of cultural appropriation and the potential harm it can have on the cultures being appropriated from.
    It's a for-real question. Yes, I've heard of "cultural appropriation," and that it is evil. I've heard far less (actually nothing) about real harm it causes. Although I have heard a bunch of weak moralizing...

    You don't have to take the time to compose an answer, I'll ask questions, and you can respond with a simple "yes" or "no." This will tell me all I need to know.

    To keep on topic, ALL of these questions deal SPECIFICALLY with the word "shaman" being used in languages other than the language of origin. These are ALL, except for the last one, YES or NO questions. I have deep respect for the time you put into this conversation and am working to keep it short.

    1. Does it cause physical harm, disease, debilitating weakness to any individual or group?

    2. Does it take real property, possessions, or earning potential (i.e.: livelihood) from any individual or group?

    3. Does it prevent or reduce the autonomy of any individual or group?

    4. Does it prevent or reduce the free expression and/or practice (or lack of expression and/or practice) of the spiritual drives/needs of any group or individual?

    5. When a word is adopted from one language into another, the meaning always changes - at least slightly (due to the different needs and contexts of the borrowing culture), but generally retains a "meaning link" to the word as used in the original language. This I understand.
    The question here is (still on #5): Does the word loose its original meaning in its original culture when this happens (or, to rephrase for clarity: Does the word become unusable for its intended purpose in the original language when used with a different meaning in a different culture)?

    6. Does it cause or encourage imperialism (imperialism: a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force) from other countries against the original group?

    7. The word was borrowed because it was valuable in categorizing an emerging concept. Does the recognition of the value of a term used be a specific group devalue any individual group member, or group?

    8. I am but an egg. Have I missed some form of harm that needs to be explained to me? If so, can you 'splain?
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  2. #52
    Opinionated Rae'ya's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    It's a for-real question. Yes, I've heard of "cultural appropriation," and that it is evil. I've heard far less (actually nothing) about real harm it causes. Although I have heard a bunch of weak moralizing...

    You don't have to take the time to compose an answer, I'll ask questions, and you can respond with a simple "yes" or "no." This will tell me all I need to know.

    To keep on topic, ALL of these questions deal SPECIFICALLY with the word "shaman" being used in languages other than the language of origin. These are ALL, except for the last one, YES or NO questions. I have deep respect for the time you put into this conversation and am working to keep it short.

    1. Does it cause physical harm, disease, debilitating weakness to any individual or group?

    2. Does it take real property, possessions, or earning potential (i.e.: livelihood) from any individual or group?

    3. Does it prevent or reduce the autonomy of any individual or group?

    4. Does it prevent or reduce the free expression and/or practice (or lack of expression and/or practice) of the spiritual drives/needs of any group or individual?

    5. When a word is adopted from one language into another, the meaning always changes - at least slightly (due to the different needs and contexts of the borrowing culture), but generally retains a "meaning link" to the word as used in the original language. This I understand.
    The question here is (still on #5): Does the word loose its original meaning in its original culture when this happens (or, to rephrase for clarity: Does the word become unusable for its intended purpose in the original language when used with a different meaning in a different culture)?

    6. Does it cause or encourage imperialism (imperialism: a policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force) from other countries against the original group?

    7. The word was borrowed because it was valuable in categorizing an emerging concept. Does the recognition of the value of a term used be a specific group devalue any individual group member, or group?

    8. I am but an egg. Have I missed some form of harm that needs to be explained to me? If so, can you 'splain?
    Allowing for the fact that I'm on my tablet and fotmatting is tricky on this thing, I'm just gonna do a list of answers.

    1. No

    2. Yes

    3. No.

    4. Yes.

    5. Yes it loses meaning but no it does not bevome unusable.

    6. Conceptually, yes. But in real, practical terms, probably not.

    7. Yes.

    8. I suspect you'll want me to prove some of these 'yeses'. I'll dig out some links tomorrow when I'm on the PC. It would be great if I could find copies of some of the articles in "Borrowing Power", seeing as my copy is in storage and you obviously can't read it. Right now I have the stage 'shamans' in Siberia in mind for #2 and #4, which I hope I can find an online link for as I saw them in a documentary on TV. Vitebsky also has some interesting notes on the consequences of non traditional plastic 'shamans' in northern Asia, but I've read those in his published books rather than online. I'll see what I can find that will suit here.

  3. #53
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Huh... I could have sworn that I responded here...

    Anyway, yes, if you could explain the yeses, I'd appreciate it, since I can't see immediately how they work.

    And don't worry about hunting up links and/or citation. I trust your intelligence, scholarship, and integrity (I also, honestly, won't have the time to read through journal articles ). Just give a quick summary to get the idea across.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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  4. #54
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    I don't normally agree with him...but this pretty much sums up my stance: http://www.northernshamanism.org/public-horses.html

    IMO--the word is a mispronunciation of a word describing a person that fulfills a particular societal role within the various cultures that make up a particular language family. This role shares many similarities, but is not even the same in the cultures that use the word as their native term for the individual. Using that word to describe similar functions of similar societal roles, or the techniques used by persons fulfilling those roles, is appropriate but not perfect.


    Or...Plato strikes again.
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
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    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by thalassa View Post
    I don't normally agree with him...but this pretty much sums up my stance: http://www.northernshamanism.org/public-horses.html

    IMO--the word is a mispronunciation of a word describing a person that fulfills a particular societal role within the various cultures that make up a particular language family. This role shares many similarities, but is not even the same in the cultures that use the word as their native term for the individual. Using that word to describe similar functions of similar societal roles, or the techniques used by persons fulfilling those roles, is appropriate but not perfect.


    Or...Plato strikes again.
    That was a good read. Thanks!
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Just a subversive thought. If we can only use shaman for Siberians (or just for the Evenki?), then what about other religious terms? "Priest" comes from the Greek presbyteros, a term chosen by the Christians to avoid using the pagan term hiereus. So, only Christians are allowed to have priests. Temple is from the Latin templum, so only Religio Remana can talk about temples.

    Jan Bremmer, justifying his use of "soul" in a Greek context, wrote "If every scholar introduces new terms to cover his specific area ... we will end up with a scientific Babel where communication is well-nigh impossible."

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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Quote Originally Posted by B. de Corbin View Post
    Huh... I could have sworn that I responded here...

    Anyway, yes, if you could explain the yeses, I'd appreciate it, since I can't see immediately how they work.

    And don't worry about hunting up links and/or citation. I trust your intelligence, scholarship, and integrity (I also, honestly, won't have the time to read through journal articles ). Just give a quick summary to get the idea across.
    Aww come on, Corbin. You know I don't do quick summaries! lol.

    First, a preface... you and I sitting here talking about shamans and shamanism is not doing any direct harm to the Tungus speaking tribes of Siberia. I absolutely don't claim that and when I talk about "potentially harmful cultural appropriation" I'm talking about the perpetuation of a misunderstanding about a) where the word comes from and b) who is a shaman and what do they do. Every person who blithely throws the term around without understanding where it comes from and why it's become a part of our modern vernacular is perpetuating this misinformation. In the link that Thal provided, Kaldera talks about the price that we pay for using the word... the ways that we can try to pay the originating culture back... by understanding where the word comes from and why we use it in modern neopaganism; by educating others about where it comes from; and by refusing to perpetuate the misunderstandings that surround the terms. This is why I've been sitting on this side of the fence throughout this discussion. Not because I don't think we should be using it, but because I think we need to be sensitive to it's origins and to the culture from which we've taken it (I think I've said that a few times... I'll stop repeating myself now ).

    There ARE places where the misuse of the word does cause direct harm to the shamans of the Tungus speaking tribes, though. And by 'direct harm' I mean loss of income, loss of earning potential and reduction of not only the value of traditional shamans and what they do, but restriction of their ability to perform their traditional roles and duties. There are 'stage shamans' in Siberia (and if I remember correctly, Mongolia), who are basically non-indigenous 'plastic shamans' (if anyone doesn't know what that term means, it's the non-traditional weekend 'shamans' who are a) claiming to be traditional shamans when they aren't and b) using their claims to earn money that would otherwise be earned by actual traditional shamans, medicine people and spirit workers). They travel around and perform corruptions of traditional rites for an audience on stage, for a fee of course. They do work that would otherwise be done by the traditional shamans, because they are cheaper and more accessible than the traditional shamans. There was a story of one who performed a good enough but incomplete copy of a traditional ritual that the 'real' shamans felt that the spirits had seen/heard it and were offended, and then had to be appeased (though I suppose we could consider that creating extra income for the traditional shamans!).

  8. #58
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Yes, I understand.

    After the Gordon Wasson Life Magazine article, Mexico got mushroom tourism. Brazil, Peru, Columbia and Bolivia get ayahuasca tourism. Haiti gets Voodoo tourism. Every interesting ethnic thing brings in tourists.

    Does it damage the indigenous/authentic practitioners? Well, maybe. But it could also be argued that it brings in more income and respect for "the real deal." The traditional practitioner's traditional "clients" are going to know the difference... unless the "fakes" serve the same purpose equally well - if that's the case... Well, what difference?

    It isn't the economics of this that bothers people. There is something else that people avoid saying that troubles them.

    Everybody who is interested in "traditional cultures," from anthropologists to armchair amateurs, have a particular bias - they view those "cultures" as important artifacts that, once gone, are irreplaceable. And they are - I agree. It's as if somebody had the only extant copy of The Complete Poems of Sappho, and was using pages to start fires (this actually happened with the Nag Hammadi manuscripts ).

    So, in their view, the plastic shamans debase, distort, pollute, defile the pure culture.

    But there is a subtle problem here... manuscripts can't decide what they want to become of themselves, so it is fair to enshrine them in museums. Not so for people.

    I recall some twenty years ago. McDonald's was opening restaurants in France. There was a big stink about destroying French cuisine via contamination with crappy American food. I was constantly being told by my concerned friends that "the French" did not want McDonald's...

    The flaw there is obvious, but I'll state it just for fun. McDonald's is in the business of selling. If they set up shop where nobody wants to buy, they go out of business - problem solved. BUT if they set up shop in France and French people buy, then it can't be true that "the French" don't want McDonald's.

    What the statement "the French do not want McDonald's" actually means is "an elite group has decided that French people should not be allowed to eat what they want to eat."

    To put this idea into the present context - if the people do not want plastic shamans, they will not go to them. If they do go to them, then either they can't tell the difference (which makes me wonder how effective the traditional shamans are), or they prefer the plastic version.

    And - IMHO - it should be the individual who decides. Not the tribal leader, not some government authority, not anthropologists. These people are not children. They need to make decisions, not have decisions made for them. They do not belong in museums.

    - - - Updated - - -

    A small sample of the economics of ayahuasca tourism:

    "I also met B's nephew, an enterprising shaman who earns a couple hundred dollars per month catering to tourists while his neighbors can not even afford a thirty cent taxi ride. He charges thirty dollars to give ayahuasca to a tourist, while the going rate for a Peruvian is about two dollars."

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  9. #59
    Nihilistic Goddess Medusa's Avatar
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    I can't wait for all cultures to fornicate themselves into one big mess of braids, voodoo and sugar skull make up.

    Just wait. It's happening.
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  10. #60
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    Re: The term "shamanism"... borrowed or appropriated?

    Trying to visualize that Duce...really

    So,maybe this?


    - - - Updated - - -

    I just think this...if you want to call yourself "Shaman" more power to you,and if you wish to name your "Messiah" OK,go ahead,BUT when you find yourself nailed to a tree,really perhaps you should have considered the history of naming yourself stuff like that...Some people gonna really expect you to do "Magic" and may be upset when you fail to come through for them...just saying..
    MAGIC is MAGIC,black OR white or even blood RED

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