with bruce grant, fall 98

when he walked in i thought "there's no way this guy is an anthro teacher... he doesn't have the furrowed checks or the bright wandering eyes. he's thin, smiley, with a voice that hits shrill for a certain emphasis. hmm..." bruce is young but he sure is crazy, and he's out to get people like me who have these silly preconceptions. lesson one i've already started.

i come into this hesitating to take most of shamanism seriously... mostly the new-age breed, the flakey self-righteous stuff. why do i give more legitimacy to tribal forms? to drug induced euphoria and visions? i think it has something to do with my notions of the more pure life, with less motivations to actually search for something rather than letting it find you.

i wonder if i should bring up my experiences, talking with a shasta medicine woman about her job, taking part in a mountainside healing circle dancing around crystals. i didn't fully understand them, but i gleened what i could from where i orbited, on the surface somewhere, wondering about how it applied to my life, to my journey.

it turns out that the course is less about shamanism itself and more about politics of representation and the power of sensationalism. we are meant to discover how dangerous it has been and can be to talk about other cultures in an uninformed way, how we project ideals upon things that are distant. this should not, however, keep us from being curious about other cultures, because without curiousity we can never learn the truth about our world.

i admit, i would have liked to have read more ethnographies of actual shamanistic practices instead of anthropological theory, but the course has helped me to better understand my own drives to travel and experience other countries, giving me things to think about but not removing the pleasure i get from it - i shall think, but not think too much.

papers: black elk speaks, eliade's shamanism, levi-strauss, why isn't everyone a shaman?, orientalism, harner's the way of the shaman, medusa's hair, stealth spirituality: ritual in a secular world, terror according to taussig, terror and healing: the battle for sense, questions of mimicry, mimicry: the rumplestilskin effect, order narcosis, the paper museum: reading national geographic

class notes

quotes from bruce himself -
"pride is the only one of the seven deadly sins that's really a sin. the rest are character building."
"the better you can express yourself on paper, the better you can express yourself orally, the less people think you're a dork."