Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


enlightenment, Shamanism, Western Europe, Religion


I f one were to undertake a genealogy of how Western Europe established a concept of otherness, the eighteenth century would be one of the most rewarding "information hubs" for such a study. Ethnography, ethnology, anthropology, and other new knowledge fields exploring global populations and environs were founded in this century, analyzing and systematizing the waves of travel reports that had been flooding Europe since the time of Columbus and Vasco da Gama. Stories and images of paradisiacal and terrorizing spaces, peculiar humans, and wondrous animals and plants had taken root in the Western imagination beginning in the sixteenth century. Encounters with shamans and shamankas were considered some of the most exotic in this genre, with its narrations originating mostly in the East, the vast spaces of Siberia.