Witch Hunts, Herbal Healing, and Discourses of Indigenous Ecodevelopment in North India: Theory and Method in the Anthropology of Environmentality

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Abstract

ABSTRACT  In this article, we examine the environmental thought and practice of indigenous peoples living in and around a wildlife sanctuary in North India. Analysis reveals that those religious specialists (such as shamans) who possess knowledge of herbal healing are more committed than other villagers to preventing or mitigating the overharvesting of natural resources. To explain these results, reference is made to a specific juncture of native traditions and modern conditions and in particular to an intersection of local economies with global discourses of “ecodevelopment.” Drawing on theories and methods from political ecology and cultural psychology, we present a framework for testing the extent that local actors—in this case, shamanic and herbalist healers—are differently positioned to resist or accommodate state and parastate structures of “environmentality” than are other villagers.

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