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 Culture and Personality 

(Psychological Anthropology)

  Margaret Mead
 Zhuangzi dreaming of a butterfly
(or a butterfly dreaming of Zhuangzi)


 Fall 2018 Calendar
Thursday, 13 June 2024, 15:18 (03:18 PM) CDT, day 165 of 2024

Mustard seed.
Selected Culture and Personality WebSites

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"Alejandro Mamani:
A Case study in Culture and Personality"

Faces of Culture Series,
Part 6
ca. 30 min., 1994, VC 2466, pt. 6

Alejandro Mamani.

Aymara -- Wikipedia

This program features a case study of Alejandro Mamani, an elder Aymara Indian whose village is located in the mountains of Bolivia. The episode focuses on Alejandro's experiences with an unexplained mental illness diagnosed as spiritual possession by Alejandro, his family and the members of his village. Ethnographers trace the man's suffering as he and his family try to cope with the unpredictability of the illness and the inevitability of death. The filmmakers are challenged to move from acting as observers to actively participating in the study, offering medicine to the suffering man. They describe, in detail, the effects Alejandro's illness has on him personally, as well as the effects his death will have on his property and family. The student is able to observe the progression of illness as Alejandro deteriorates from a respected leader in his community, to one whom is totally dependent on his family for survival. The program offers insights into the methods different cultures use to cope with both illness and death. -- PBS (VC 2466, pt. 6)


Terms / Concepts:

  • diviner

  • spirit possession is not generally considered a culture-bound syndrome

    • spirit possession exists in many cultures, and in many belief systems, including Christianity

    • spirit possession is an etic category

  • compadre

  • religious syncretism

  • Disease is universal

    • compare: etic

  • Illness is culturally specific

    • compare: emic


  • "What is real to the Aymera is often invisible."

  • Note

    • Alejandro Mamani's description of the different spirits tormenting him

    • the reaction of the community and his family to his illness

    • the kind of diagnosis made

    • the various cures that are attempted

    • note how all of these are related to Aymera beliefs

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  • As long as Alejandro's illness is considered "normal" the family will continue its support, but when it crosses the line to "abnormality," to insanity, then they can give up and withdraw their support

  • Among the Aymera "the boundary between the natural and supernatural is easily trespassed by humans and spirits alike"

  • Alejandro Mamani saw the bad potato harvest as proof that malevolent forces were [after him]

  • Alenjandro Mamani, a village leader, would rather die than have the villagers hear his "ravings"

  • Candlemas = 2 February

  • Corpus Christi = The Thursday after Trinity Sunday

    • Trinity Sunday is the Sunday after Pentecost [which is the seventh Sunday after Easter]

      • and "Easter is the first Sunday after the first fourteenth day of the moon (the Paschal Full Moon) that is on or after the ecclesiastical vernal equinox" (Wikepedia)

        • "[The Paschal] Full Moon does not currently correspond directly to any astronomical event, but is a historical artifact determined from tables, and it may differ from the date of the actual full moon by up to two days."



  • Vitocota, a small village near Lake Titicaca, Bolivian Andes


  • Alejandro Mamani

Bibliography / Resources:

  • "How Time Flies" -- For the Aymara people living in the Andes, the past lies ahead and the future lies behind. Laura Spinney looks at how different languages reflect, and shape, our conception of time (Thursday February 24, 2005; The Guardian)

  • transcript -- Honolulu Community College [this transcript does not contain the dialogue of the Aymara, which is very important to pay attention to in this video]
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Last Modified Tuesday, 26 March 2013, 17:16 (05:16 PM) CDT, day 085 of 2013
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