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Castaneda, Carlos (1925/27-1998)

The Peruvian Carlos Castañeda (1925/27-1998) is one of the most famous and controversial figures in the history of anthropology. After settling in the United States in 1951, he trained at the University of California, Los Angeles. Then in 1968, with The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, his works, which were best-sellers on a global scale, heralded an anthropological approach which combined indigenous mysticism and restitution of the words of his interlocutors; this approach seduced the learned community but then divided it, as some doubted the veracity of his ethnographic experience. Inseparable from the psychedelic movement and the New Age of which he is a precursor, Castaneda’s work and personality, notwithstanding his discredit after being excluded from the American Anthropological Association, continue to question the writing practices of the discipline and the ethnographic pact established with the interlocutors in the field.

Keywords: Cultural anthropology | Humanist anthropology | Postmodernism | Psychedelic movement | Second half of the 20th century | Mexico | Peru | United States of America | Yaqui | Religion | Shamanism | Emic | Spirituality and mysticism | Hallucinogens | Ethnomethodology