Spirits Captured in Stone: Shamanism and Traditional Medicine among the Taman of Borneo

Spirits Captured in Stone: Shamanism and Traditional Medicine among the Taman of Borneo

Spirits Captured in Stone: Shamanism and Traditional Medicine among the Taman of Borneo

Spirits Captured in Stone: Shamanism and Traditional Medicine among the Taman of Borneo

Synopsis

This work examines Shamanism and healing practices among the Taman of Borneo. It contributes to contemporary debates in cultural and medical anthropology, the anthopology of religion and magic, ritual, folklore, and Southeast Asian ethnography.

Excerpt

Fieldwork is culturally subversive. It temporarily detaches one from one's own way of thinking and doing, yet it never entirely connects to an alternate one. It fosters one's imagination about both. the better one empathizes, the better one does ethnography, yet full absorption and empathy within another world would inhibit social insight. For these reasons, one could argue that anthropology ... is a tragic discipline in that it goes far to isolate and alienate its practitioners from full conviction in their own mode of thinking and doing.

T. O. Beidelman (1993, p. 214)

As a graduate student wanting to master the literature on Southeast Asian ethnography and hoping someday to make an original contribution to anthropology, I came across two books written in the 1950s by W. R. Geddes on the Land Dayak people (now known as Bidayuh), who inhabit an area in western Borneo including parts of both Sarawak (Malaysia) and West Kalimantan (Indonesia). I was intrigued by these books and eventually resolved that I would undertake a full-scale ethnographic study of the Bidayuh, concentrating on questions of medical knowledge and rationality and using the perspectives of cognitive anthropology, the sociology of knowledge, and the situational analysis of case histories. Shamanism was mentioned only in passing in my proposal, and I fully expected to concentrate on folk medicines made from natural materials. I make no apology that this book, finished many years later, takes a different outlook from the one I originally proposed. All experienced anthropologists know that anything they write in their proposals turns out, one way or another, to be unworkable, uninteresting, or wrong by the time they get to the field. Furthermore, anthropology itself has moved ahead since 1983. Although much of this is a matter of styling, fads, and new words for old ideas, there is more to it than that. Theoretical approaches concerning many issues such as gender, material culture, performance, medical aesthetics, medical discourse, and embodiment have matured greatly in this time, and I have tried to relate my find-

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