Transdimensional relations: on human-spirit interaction in the Amazon


Department of Social Anthropology, School of Global Studies, Gothenburg University, Box 700, SE-405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden.


Animism has been a topic of interest for some time, and several innovative approaches challenging earlier conventional perspectives have been presented. Inspired by the recent thinking on this classical anthropological subject, this article explores conceptualizations of the human-spirit, or transdimensional, relationship central to any theory on animism. Drawing on fieldwork among the Matsigenka of the tropical lowlands of southeastern Peru, conceptions of and motivations for the interaction with spirits are examined. For a society that places high moral value on equality and conviviality, the emphasis on discrimination and hierarchical relations that is prominent in many studies is inappropriate. As an alternative more congenial to the Matsigenka ethos, the article stresses the convivial qualities of sharing and mutual trust. Both these virtues play down the importance of hierarchy and discrimination allowing us to understand what motivates the Matsigenka to enter into an often arduous and demanding relationship with spirits.