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I am researching for a book on Shamanism and neo-Shamanism and an issue that emerges from this work is that of ownership. Neo-Shamans (i.e. Euro-Americans who are creating contemporary expressions of shamanism) are accused of cultural appropriation and theft of ceremonial forms. Such activity is defined as colonialism. My question is how do we determine who owns what in this scenario? I don't mean this in a legal sense necessarily. More, is there a moral or ethical justification for stating that traditional indigenous Shamans are right? How would one define such a moral or ethical right. I guess I'm asking in an absolute sense who owns what and how do we justify such ownership: what does philosophy have to say about this?

January 10, 2013

Response from Oliver Leaman on January 19, 2013
I don't think anyone owns ideas or forms of culture. If someone wants to incorporate shamanism in their lives we may suspect their motives or the authenticity of their approach, but why should they not try it? You don't have to be an Indian to make Indian food or a German to play Beethoven, surely.


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