Guns and Sorcery: Raiding, Trading, and Kanaima among the Makushi

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Raiding, trading, and sorcery are historically-interrelated phenomena among the Makushi Amerindians in Guyana. Colonial documents reveal that the Makushi were heavily targeted during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries by Luso-Brazilian and Amerindian slavers. The form of such slaving frequently fluctuated between raiding and trading and formed a nexus around which practices of sorcery came to be centred. A connexion between the historical positions of the Makushi as victims of slaving and practitioners of kanaima sorcery has been identified by Neil Whitehead, who hypothesized that kanaima practices gained socially-sanctioned applications as the introduction of guns led to transformations in traditional patterns of Amerindian warfare in the region. However, although these changes led to new defencive applications for kanaima violence, there is evidence that warriors were susceptible to kanaima manipulations and that sorceric defences against external predation expanded the potential scope of internal predation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158-172
Number of pages15
JournalTipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Makushi History
  • Sorcery
  • Shamanism
  • Violence
  • Interethnic Contact


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