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In his own words, Alejandro Tsakimp tells of his lives and relationships, the practice of shamanism, and the many challenges and triumphs he has encountered since childhood. He was born at the time when Shuar were first confronting the impact of Ecuadorian colonialism, which had triggered devastating intertribal conflict over the production and trade of shrunken heads and intratribal feuding fueled by accusations of witchcraft. Tsakimp was first exposed to healing practices when he was cured in the womb by a shaman. Later he actively pursued this knowledge in the hopes of curing his father, another shaman, who was ill from witchcraft. His father's death in 1990 created conflict among his heirs, who were the first generation of Shuar to inherit property. Tsakimp's family fiercely competed for the property and eventually accused one another of witchcraft and parricide.
Anthropologist Steven Rubenstein, who began working with Tsakimp in 1989, has skillfully edited Tsakimp's stories and provides essential background information. Ruben-stein argues that although these stories reveal tensions between individual and collective autonomy on the colonial frontier, they also resist simplistic dichotomies such as state versus indigene and modern versus traditional.
Alejandro Tsakimp provides a revealing look at the relationship between anthropologist and shaman and an insightful glimpse into the complicated lives of South American Indians today.
Steven Rubenstein (1962-2012) was a Reader in Latin American Anthropology at the University of Liverpool.