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Accepted Paper:

"What makes us Muisca is our medicine": traditional healing practices as indicators of indigenous authenticity   
Maria Fernanda Esteban Palma (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

Urban indigenous groups are frequently accused of inauthenticity. As traditional medicine became an indicator of indigeneity, groups form Bogota, Colombia, are appropriating the healing practices of other groups to be, and feel, more indigenous. Benefits and hardships emerge from such incorporations.

Paper long abstract:

States, the non-indigenous majorities and even some indigenous people see urban indigeneity with suspicion, keeping urban groups under constant scrutiny. As indigenous recognition in Colombia is granted in terms of "cultural diversity", such diversity is measured against a generalizing model of indigeneity. This western ideal is enrooted in transnational representations of indigenous people as particularly spiritual; so many groups are consciously publicizing their spirituality through indigenous healing practices. In Bogota, indigenous Muisca groups are frequently accused of inauthenticity both for being urban and for their recent cultural revitalization. To overcome these accusations, they are establishing connections with groups that are well known for their traditional healing practices, creating their own healing systems based on theirs. The source groups can be ayahuasca or tobacco shamans from the Amazon, experienced Kogui leaders, Inca healers, and even leaders from Central or North American tribes. This paper focuses on how this inter-group transmission of knowledge takes place. First, I explore how a somehow unified healing system is produced by the Muisca, even when the healing practices acquired by each group come from very dissimilar sources. Second, I explain how the groups manage to frame their healing practices as traditions, regardless of their late incorporation. Finally, I critically analyse the impact that using healing practices as an indicator of authentic indigeneity has on the life of the members of these groups. By doing so, I expose some of the struggles behind the frequent demand to appear authentic to be indigenous.

Panel P088
Dialogue among indigenous traditions and health
  Session 1