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Cosmovision and shamanism in lowland South America and the Caribbean


Compulsory attendance


Addmission requirements

Propedeuse (first year) obtained.

This course is available for BA3-students Archaeology and BA3-students from other faculties who hold an interest in and with a background in anthropology, intercultural approaches or religion.


This course provides an introduction to the ontology of indigenous peoples from the tropical lowlands of South America and the Caribbean as it can be understood from the anthropological and archaeological literature. Extra attention will be given to the topic of how this cosmovision finds expression in various shamanic systems of the region.
This course is also meant to provide a basic understanding of the major differences between Western and non-Western metaphysical and epistemological systems and how these differences affect the anthropological-archaeological interpretation.
In addition, writing argumentative essays, providing criticism of essays by peers and the acquisition of discussion skills are central.

Course objectives

  • Knowledge about the cosmological vision of societies with an animistic worldview, particularly those of Lowland South America and the Caribbean;

  • Ability to clearly define concepts related to shamanism and cosmovision, as discussed in literature and in class;

  • Awareness of one’s own Western worldview and Western frame of reference;

  • Learn about the various theoretical backgrounds of anthropological literature in this area and ability to apply these to a case study;

  • Ability to weigh the pros and cons of the various theories and can present one’s own, well-argued position in the debate, both in written and in verbal form;

  • Ability to assume a diachronic perspective (i.e. linking archaeological, historical and anthropological research;

  • Ability to present on a specific case study related to shamanic practices and cosmovision of an indigenous people of lowland South America or the Caribbean, making critical use of the required literature and literature to be collected by the student. In the presentation a thorough introduction to the topic will be given, a debate or research problem for this topic will be presented and one’s own, well-argued position is taken in this debate or a solution to the problem will be given.

Ects distribution

The course load will be distributed as follows:

  • 7×2 hours of lectures;

  • 280 pages of literature;

  • Paper/critical essay.


Course schedule details can be found in the bachelor 3 time schedule.

Mode of instruction

Lectures with discussion.

Assessment method

  • Class participation (25%)

    • Attendance;
    • Discussion points on Blackboard are due every week and at least 24 hours BEFORE the respective class. Students can comment upon discussion points of their peers and engage in a “forum discussion” on blackboard. These discussions will be continued in class;
    • Every student will (at least once) be responsible for leading a class discussion based on the forum discussion on blackboard;
    • Verbal expression of one’s own opinion as well as engaging in an open yet well informed discussion with peers and fellow students.
  • Exam (75%)

    • PowerPoint based presentation of a case-study;
    • Critical Essay (about 4000 words; further information on Blackboard).
      Please note: you should pass all elements in order to receive the credits and pass the course as a whole.

Assessment deadline

Reading list

To be posted on Blackboard.


Register for this course via uSis.
Instructions for registration can be found in the uSis manual.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Prospective students website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

For more information about this course, please contact dr R.S. Duin.


Depending on the composition of the class, the course will be taught in either Dutch or English. If foreign students are attending the class, the course will be taught in English, but if only Dutch students are present, the course will be taught in Dutch.