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Zorbas, Konstantinos

Grant Type
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation
Cambridge, U. of
Completed Grant
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Project Title
Zorbas, Konstantinos, U. of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom - To aid research on 'Interactions Between Shamans and Clients in a Siberian City,' supervised by Dr. Piers G. Vitebsky

KONSTANTINOS ZORBAS, while a student at the University of Cambridge in Cambridge, England, was awarded a grant in March 2003 to aid research on interactions between shamans and clients in a Siberian city, under the supervision of Dr. Piers G. Vitebsky. Zorbas studied episodes of illness and performances of shamanic healing in the city Kyzyl, Republic of Tyva, Russia. Focusing principally on healing interactions between shamans and their clients, he found that occurrences of psychosomatic suffering were effectively managed by being explained as results of witchcraft or curses practiced by an enemy. Follow-up evaluations of patients' post-treatment conditions led to the conclusion that shamanic healing entailed therapeutic effects, even for clients who reported prior recourse to professional medical treatment with partial or no positive results. The efficacy of shamanic healing was seen to lie in the use of certain literal and metaphoric elements of ritual language that engaged both shaman and patient in a process of recollecting and restructuring traumatic memories. Similarities in the responses elicited from shamans and patients regarding their experiences of the therapeutic process suggested that the experience of healing was embodied through culturally mediated sensory modes of attention to the performance. Zorbas concluded that the meaning the experience of illness held for the patient derived from a psychologically embedded preoccupation with cursing and its implications. Shamanic healing went beyond the limits of the consultation to evoke an overall transformation in the patient's awareness of self.