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Shamanism, a form of healing involving soul travel and trance found in many traditional societies the world over, has been studied by anthropologists and scholars of religious studies. Shamanic traditions are characterized by specialized, restricted, and esoteric knowledge domains that are encoded and communicated through condensed and mystified symbols and reproduced in ceremonies. Shamanic knowledge is acquired through direct experience of the numinous, usually in the process of overcoming personal affliction. Information science so far has been silent on shamanic knowledge. This is understandable given the latter discipline's focus on formal documentary information systems and advanced information technologies. But in view of its mandate to encompass the study of all modes of knowledge in terms of information behavior and processing, it holds out an unfulfilled promise to expand our understanding of knowledge and information to include shamanic knowledge, complementing the perspectives of anthropology and religious studies and shedding fresh light on the nature of shamanism. Drawing on the author's own studies of shamanism among the Taman of West Kalimantan, Indonesia, this presentation argues that objects play an important documentary function in fixing technical and arcane knowledge when writing is absent. This finding can enrich information science in rounding out its approach to knowledge.


This work was originally published in Advances in the Study of Information and Religion.



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