Accepted Paper:

"Shipibo-Konibo traditional medicine": the impact of anthropologist's (stupid) questions on an indigenous group's self-perception  

Author:

Bernd Brabec de Mori (University of Graz)

Paper short abstract:

The impact of western scientific research in general and of ethnomedical fieldwork in particular on the representation of "Shipibo-Konibo cosmology" will be elaborated.

Paper long abstract:

Fieldworking in medical anthropology is a delicate process. There are researchers who feed like vampires on their informants, as well as informants who likewise feed on researchers. From the very beginning, the fieldworker is challenged by own prejudices, projections from his culture of origin and from the host cultural complex. Concious of his own biases, the researcher will still have to understand informant´s expectations on both his project and personality before understanding anything else. The author has lived for five years inside his own fieldwork in western Amazonia.

In Shipibo-Konibo society (indigenous group in Peru), semiprofessional experts in responding anthropological questions have evolved after a relative oversaturation with anthropologists during the 20th century. They know how to seduce researchers with interesting knowledge regarding medical practices, which may be completely eclectic, improvised or even constructed in purpose of impressing the visitor and obtaining economic favours.

The impact of western scientific research in general and of ethnomedical fieldwork in particular on the representation of "Shipibo-Konibo cosmology" will be elaborated. It shall be mentioned that the Shipibo-Konibo ethnic compound is a 20th century´s construction as well as the assumption that there exists a representative cosmology; not to skip the fact that ayawaska usage has been considered the fundamental (and millenium) experience for this "cosmology" by most authors. Today´s Shipibo-Konibo self-perception is greatly influenced if not almost entirely constructed by former ethnographer´s expectations. If you ask a question and get an answer, this should sometimes be considered more worrying than getting no response.

Panel W037
Medical anthropological fieldwork: ethical and methodological issues