Healing Covid-19 in the Brazilian Northwest Amazon: A discourse-centered exploration of Indigenous peoples’ perspectives




Rovin, John D.

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Of the many questions which the Covid-19 pandemic has provoked, one of the biggest is “When will life be normal again?” On top of assuming that the pre-pandemic status quo has no challengers, it begs the question of who might want to forge a new normal on their own terms. Building off of that question, this paper embarks on a case study of how Indigenous peoples in the Upper Rio Negro of the Northwest Amazon have drawn upon shamanism and also reaffirmed its validity alongside “Western medicine” during the pandemic. To this end, I use a discourse-centered approach to analyze how incantations, a genre of shamanic discourse unique to the Upper Rio Negro, have not only been used to treat Covid-19 but also made numerous appearances in digital media/journalistic coverage of the pandemic. Ultimately, I argue that the both subtle and overt references to incantations made by many Indigenous scholars and shamans in the Upper Rio Negro reflect how shamanism in the region involves myriad socio-political obligations, which may be invoked to forward self-determination.



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