Broken into two parts, this remarkable work of creative anthropology looks firstly at the history of colonial and economic terror in the Amazon. Then it turns to Taussig’s extensive, sympathetic fieldwork among Colombian Indians, examining their socio-magical beliefs and refracting their political and historical experience through the turbulent vortex of healing that is ayahuasca.
The text is soaked in intimate, poetic detail about life lived on the borders of civilization, surrounded by oppression that only recently became less than horrific. It is also deeply interwoven with hard-edged critical theory that seeks to burst the confines of orthodox anthropology, recognize the limits of academic work, and salvage hopeful models of post-colonial political resistance among Amazonian cultures.
It’s a tough, non-linear book, but it should be attempted and appreciated by anyone interested in politics, magic, healing and history.