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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1988 ; 27(8): 829-39.

Healing boundaries in south Kalimantan.

Tsing AL.

Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003.

In the Meratus Mountains of South Kalimantan, Indonesia, a number of intersecting discourses on the body compete to clarify and legitimize health practices and curing techniques. Meratus Dayak shamans cure through chants that metaphorically open and expand social and somatic boundaries; they open up the pores to let in healthy cosmic flows and to remove intrusive foreign objects caused by a patient's narrow-focused definition of self-interest and personal space. In contrast, neighboring Banjar Muslims fortify their boundaries against debilitating intrusions--like poisoned winds and poisoned foods--and messy extrusions--like the spilled blood of vampire's mouths and women's vaginas. In the ensuing ethnic dialog, Meratus shamans are cast as perpetrators as well as curers of the kind of illness-causing sorcery that makes Banjar most vulnerable. The contrasts, and the combinations, of these two curing systems highlight the internal logic of each as well as the social conditions of their continuing practice.


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