Accepted paper:

pdf download Shamans and the global pandemic of retribution amidst Russia's "Rogue Nation" - Tuva (Siberia)


Konstantinos Zorbas (Shandong University)

Paper short abstract:

Grounding analysis on a case-study of the shamans' counteroffensive against curse afflictions in the Russian Republic of Tuva, this paper contributes a Siberian example of anxiety and violence to anthropological research on conspiracy as the centerpiece of a globally prevalent "retributive logic".

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on shamans as the catalysts and healers of an epidemic of curses in Tuva Republic during the early twenty-first century. Focusing on how shamans establish and materialize "facts" and evidence relating to (invisible) crimes of sorcery, the paper offers documentation of a social field of transparency and "forensic" knowledge associated with religious practices of inspiration and supernatural retribution. It is argued that the centrality of suspicions and accusations of sorcery to contexts of judicial and political authority in Kyzyl - the capital city of Tuva and a (former) showcase for Soviet development in Central Asia - may be viewed as a local configuration of the currently global pandemic of a retributive logic. With the publication of "Transparency and Conspiracy: Ethnographies of Suspicion in the New World Order" (Sanders and West 2003) evidence emerged of ("paranoid") styles of collective and radical thinking, which are contemptuous of "sacred" official truths and statements on elected government and open democracy. Alongside this enthusiastically anticipated collapse of Euro-modernist democracy, this paper will analyze the post-Soviet "return" of shamans as historical "anti-state" heroic actors in Tuva, as well as the perceived social impact of ideas on "cursing" as the hidden cause behind disasters (such as the terrorist attack on 11 September). In analyzing shamanic retaliation as a cultural expression of a global pandemic of retribution, the paper will also engage a well-known study by Garry Trompf, entitled "Payback: the Logic of Retribution in Melanesian Religions".

pdf download Download the full paper (145225 bytes)
panel P110
Things are not as they seem. Tracing the movements and immobility of conspiracy theories