In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries most explorers, whalers, and ethnographers perceived Inuit traditions, especially shamanism, to be in a state of decline. The assumption that Inuit culture was on the brink of disappearance constituted a classic topos in anthropology obscuring the dynamics of Inuit culture and society. This perspective was enhanced by focusing too much on the person of the shaman and underestimated the importance and strength of the ideological system and values involved. Qallunaat (white people) perspectives of decline contrast with Inuit perspectives valorizing the integration and incorporation of qallunaat culture. We compare classic descriptions of shamanism with recent testimonies of elders and demonstrate that, even today, shamanism is for many Inuit part of a wider cosmology that is dynamic, open to innovation, and marked by strong continuity.
Research Article|July 01 2006
Perceptions of Decline: Inuit Shamanism in the Canadian Arctic
Ethnohistory (2006) 53 (3): 445-477.
Jarich Oosten, Frédéric Laugrand, Cornelius Remie; Perceptions of Decline: Inuit Shamanism in the Canadian Arctic. Ethnohistory 1 July 2006; 53 (3): 445–477. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00141801-2006-001
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