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Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender Power and Healing Among Chilean Mapuche

Thu, April 26, 2007 | Follett's Intellectual Property

5:00 PM

Free parking at the Co-Op Garage. Parking ticket validated at the event.

Shamans of the Foye Tree: Gender, Power and Healing Among Chilean Mapuche is the first study to follow shamans' gender identities and performance in a variety of ritual, social, sexual, and political contexts. While anthropologists understand gender to be enmeshed with relations of power, they still draw on Western assumptions that gender identities are permanent and are associated with sex and a particular sexual identity. Many anthropologists argue that there are significant differences in the healing therapies and practices of male and female machi that express men's and women's roles in everyday life.

Bacigalupo draws on fifteen years of field research with Mapuche shamans or machi from Southern Chile to challenge these notions. She shows how shamans gender identities, and sexualities change in a variety of ritual, everyday, and political contexts and are related to competing structures of power and legitimacy. To machi, the sacred foye tree is of special importance, not only for its medicinal qualities but also because of its hermaphroditic flowers, which reflect the gender- shifting components of machi healing practices.

Framed by the cultural constructions of gender and identity, Bacigalupo's findings span the ways in which the Chilean state stigmatizes the machi as witches and sexual deviants; how shamans use paradoxical discourses about gender to legitimatize themselves as co-gender healers in ritual and, at the same time, as modern men and women in everyday and political contexts; the tree's political use as a symbol of resistance to national ideologies; and other components of these rich traditions. The first comprehensive study on Mapuche shamans' gendered practices, Shamans of the Foye Tree offers new perspectives on this crucial intersection of spiritual, social, and political power.

Ana Mariella Bacigalupo is currently a Visiting scholar at LLILAS. Ana Mariella Bacigalupo is also Associate Professor of Anthropology at SUNY Buffalo.

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