Strategies of Shamanic Diplomacy in Davi Kopenawa's "The Sky is Falling"

When and Where

Friday, March 18, 2022 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm
Online, Zoom


Ross Swanson


The Latin American Studies program is pleased to invite you to a lecture by one of the LAS Fellows for 2021-22, Ross Swanson.

About the Presentation
First published in French in 2010, The Falling Sky by the Yanomami shaman and activist Davi Kopenawa has been described as a "cosmoecological manifesto" by collaborator and translator, French anthropologist Bruce Albert. In the book, Kopenawa develops a shamanic analysis of the ills of colonialism and extractivism, particularly garimpo (informal gold prospecting), and warns of the impending collapse of the sky.

In this talk, I examine the ways that Kopenawa and his collaborators, including Albert and other non-indigenous commentators, attempt to negotiate the restrictions imposed on indigenous discourse under what Elizabeth Povinelli calls “geontopower.” Although these strategies may be effective, they also risk the imposition of Western terms of analysis on Kopenawa’s message for political effect. I end by reflecting on how The Falling Sky contributes to the construction of the Amazonian shaman as a ‘diplomat’ capable of bridging Western and indigenous ontological ‘worlds.’

About the Presenter
Ross Swanson is a Latin American Studies Fellow for 2021-2022 and a PhD candidate in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. His dissertation research examines how Latin American writers and filmmakers have mobilized the figure of the Amazonian shaman in search of new perspectives and critical authority on issues like extractivism, climate change, and the continuing impact of colonialism in the region.

Contact Information


Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Latin American Studies program