The Master Plant : Tobacco in Lowland South America book cover
1st Edition

The Master Plant
Tobacco in Lowland South America

ISBN 9781350007390
Published September 22, 2016 by Routledge
280 Pages

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Book Description

Described as a ‘master plant’ by many indigenous groups in lowland South America, tobacco is an essential part of shamanic ritual, as well as a source of everyday health, wellbeing and community. In sharp contrast to the condemnation of the tobacco industry and its place in contemporary public health discourse, the book considers tobacco in a more nuanced light, as an agent both of enlightenment and destruction.Exploring the role of tobacco in the lives of indigenous peoples, The Master Plant offers an important and unique contribution to this field of study through its focus on lowland South America: the historical source region of this controversial plant, yet rarely discussed in recent scholarship. The ten chapters in this collection bring together ethnographic accounts, key developments in anthropological theory and emergent public health responses to indigenous tobacco use. Moving from a historical study of tobacco usage – covering the initial domestication of wild varieties and its value as a commodity in colonial times – to an examination of the transcendent properties of tobacco, and the magic, symbolism and healing properties associated with it, the authors present wide-ranging perspectives on the history and cultural significance of this important plant. The final part of the book examines the changing landscape of tobacco use in these communities today, set against the backdrop of the increasing power of the national and transnational tobacco industry.The first critical overview of tobacco and its uses across lowland South America, this book encourages new ways of thinking about the problems of commercially exploited tobacco both within and beyond this source region.

Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsList of TablesContributorsForeword: From Gift of the Deities to Scourge among HumansRobin Wright, University of Florida, Gainesville, USAAcknowledgementsIntroduction: The Changing Landscape of Tobacco Use in Lowland South AmericaAndrew Russell, Durham University, UK and Elizabeth Rahman, University of Oxford, UKPart I: Tobacco in Ecological and Historical Contexts1. A Deep History of Tobacco in Lowland South AmericaAugusto Oyuela-Caycedo, University of Florida, USA and Nicholas C. Kawa, Ball State University, USA2. Methods of Tobacco Use among Two Arawakan-speaking Peoples in Southwestern Amazonia: A Case Study of Structural DiffusionPeter Gow, University of St Andrews, UK3. Tobacco and Shamanic Agency in the Upper Amazon: Historical and Contemporary PerspectivesFrançoise Barbira-Freedman, University of Cambridge, UKPart Two: Shifting Perspectives4. Singing White Smoke: Tobacco Songs from the Ucayali ValleyBernd Brabec de Mori, University of Graz, Austria5. Cool Tobacco Breath: The Uses and Meanings of Tobacco among the People of the CentreJuan Alvaro Echeverri, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia6. Tobacco and Water: Everyday BlessingsElizabeth Rahman, University of Oxford, UKPart Three: Changing Landscapes7. Commercial Cigarettes and Tamï Ale among the Wayana in Northern Amazonia Renzo S. Duin, Leiden University, The Netherlands8. Landscapes of Desire and Tobacco Circulation in the Yanomami Ethos Alejandro Reig, University of Oxford, UK9. Of Tobacco and Well-being in Indigenous AmazoniaJuan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti, University of St Andrews, UK10. Smoking Tobacco and Swinging the Chicha: On Different Modes of Sociality among Guna ('Kuna') PeoplePaolo Fortis, Durham University, UKBibliographyIndex

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Andrew Russell is a Reader in the Department of Anthropology and a Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing at Durham University, UK.Elizabeth Rahman is a social and medical anthropologist based at the University of Oxford, UK and is a Postdoctoral Associate of the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology.


[An] interesting book ... [that presents] anthropological insights on different uses of tobacco among indigenous peoples of Western Amazonia. - Anthropos