Sorcery and well-being: bodily transformation at Beckeranta

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Abstract

This paper examines bodily transformation and well-being within the context of a millenarian movement that emerged during the 1840s in the area surrounding Mount Roraima at the periphery of Brazil, Guyana (British Guiana at the time), and Venezuela. The site of this movement was Beckeranta – meaning ‘Land of the Whites’ – where up to 400 Amerindians were reportedly killed in a quest that is described in its sole historical account as centred around a goal of bodily transforma- tion into white people. In examining this movement, the paper engages with longstanding debates in medical anthropology concerning the body, as well as conversations among Amazonianists concerning the social formation of bodies, and examines sorcery and shamanism as practices that go ‘beyond the body’. Notions of bodily transformation in Amazonia, which are often activated by strong emotions, facilitate conceptual expansions of the body in medical anthropology. The paper suggests that bodily transformations tied to sorcery and shamanism are in some contexts, such as at Beckeranta, associated with desires for well-being.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-93
Number of pages16
JournalAnthropology & Medicine
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Well-being
  • Bodily transformation
  • Sorcery
  • Shamanism
  • Millenarianism
  • Guyana

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