Documenting ritual songs: Best practices for preserving the ambiguity of Alto Perené (Arawak) shamanic pantsantsi ‘singing’

Date
2019-05
Authors
Mihas, Elena
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Publisher
University of Hawaii Press
Abstract
Drawing on extensive fieldwork, the paper explores the ways of interpreting and translating a shamanic pantsantsi song by a fieldworker and Alto Perené (a.k.a Ashéninka Perené) language workers. The language’s vitality is on a steep downward trajectory. Currently, it is spoken by a few hundred people. Aiming to create a thorough record of shamanic singing for the purpose of Alto Perené preservation, the fieldworker grapples with various stumbling blocks. Among them are the absence of shamans as an institution, the simulative setting of audio and video recordings, the inaccessibility of the text meanings to language consultants, and the non-definitiveness of the translated text. The shamanic language is manipulated in various ways to make it distinct from the profane speech of community members. The manipulative strategies include the singer’s allusions to the predation and conviviality schemes, prosodic repetitions, lexical and morphosyntactic manipulations, and voice masking. The meaning of the pantsantsi text eludes the non-indigenous fieldworker unless she collaborates with highly proficient language speakers, devotes many years to the committed study of the research language, possesses a good knowledge of the culture-specific background, and draws on multiple sources of translation.
Description
Keywords
shamanic singing, fieldwork, ambiguity, collaboration
Citation
Mihas, Elena. 2019. Documenting ritual songs: Best practices for preserving the ambiguity of Alto Perené (Arawak) shamanic pantsantsi ‘singing’. Language Documentation & Conservation 13: 197-230.
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