As in the myth of a phantom gringo boat receding into the mist, elusive promises of participatory democracy and a semi-autonomous forest reserve have spurred the Emberá Indians of Panama to leave their dispersed settlements in the Darién forests and become more involved with the outside world. Since the late 1960s, they have elected representatives to the national government and sought to equalize their political and economic relationships with neighboring blacks.
In this first full-length ethnography of the Emberá of Darién (also known, with the Wounaan, as the Chocó), Stephanie C. Kane investigates their use of myth and magic to interpret the changes that occurred in the mid-1980s after Manuel Noriega assumed command of the Panama Defense Forces. She reveals how magical discourse, founded on the ancient global practice of shamanism, is the language used to cross the gap between the known and the unknown. Approaching local history with shamanic logic and organizing each chapter around a set of interpretive dilemmas, Kane highlights the ways in which myth and magic relate integrally to Emberá life, including ecology, economy, politics, health, constructs of race and gender, and memory.
Arguing that anthropology is both empirical and imaginative, Kane modifies the ethnographic gaze to include Indian views of the anthropologist and, more generally, Euro-Americans. Kane also presents analyses of indigenous women's land rights and the politics of rainforest development.
First published in 1994, this second edition of The Phantom Gringo Boat includes a new preface by the author, as well as two supplementary essays, The Rise of Patriarchy in Emberá Indian Village Law and Emberá (Chocó) Medicinal Plant Use: Implications for Planning the Biosphere Reserve in Darién, Panama, and three reviews of the first edition.
A marvelously sensitive, stimulating, witty, yet forboding portrait of life on the tropical forest frontier between Central and South America. . . . a model ethnography for a discipline striving to find new means of expression, and her treatment of international politics and indigenous shamanism, women’s domestic roles and changing ecology, canoe construction and cash economies, murder and mythology, makes for a rich, sophisticated story that readers at all levels may find engrossing. P. R. Sullivan, Choice
Among the best and most elegant works of ethnography that Ive ever read. . . . a model of and for contemporary ethnographic practice and representation. Paul Stoller, American Anthropologist
A fascinating work that will be very useful in courses on South American ethnology, development, ethnohistory, and ethnographic writing. . . . a tribute both to the authors creativity as an ethnographer and to the resilience of social anthropology in an unpredictable world. Jonathan D. Hill, American Ethnologist
Stephanie C. Kane, a native New Yorker, is currently Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Gender Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. She has a Ph.D. in social and cultural anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of AIDS Alibis (1998) and co-editor of Crime's Power (2003). For further information click here.
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