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Ana Mariella Bacigalupo's fellowship project, “Memory, Spirits and Violence in Mapuche Chilean Geographies,” is a study grounded in more than 24 years of ethnographic research regarding the Mapuche people. Photo: Douglas Levere

Anthropologist named Max Planck visiting fellow

By PATRICIA DONOVAN

Published March 26, 2015

UB anthropologist Ana Mariella Bacigalupo has spent more than two decades conducting ethnographic research on the Mapuche people, who collectively comprise 80 percent of the indigenous population of Chile.

Her “groundbreaking” research has been cited by the directors of the prestigious Max Planck Society in awarding her a 2015-16 fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Religion and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.

The institute is one of 83 research institutes and facilities that comprise the Max Planck Society, recognized as among the best and most prestigious research organizations in the world.

Scholars do not apply for this fellowship, but must be invited by the society’s directors to work with its researchers on a focal topic. In awarding her the $46,844 fellowship, the directors cited Bacigalupo’s “new groundbreaking ethnographic research on the intersection of state violence, the emergence of spirits cults of deceased victims and the concept of sacrifice,” which they said would contribute to the institute’s focus for the 2015-16 academic year.

Her fellowship project, “Memory, Spirits and Violence in Mapuche Chilean Geographies,” is a study grounded in more than 24 years of ethnographic research regarding the Mapuche people.

The Mapuche, and in particular their shamanic practices, have been the subject of 34 of Bacigalupo’s refereed articles in ethnology and anthropology journals, 10 refereed book chapters and five books or monographs, including “Thunder Shaman: Making History with Mapuche Spirits in Patagonia,” forthcoming from the University of Texas Press.

Unlike her previous work, however, the Max Planck institute project does not deal with shamanism, but with the Mapuche belief that violence perpetrated by the Chilean state creates wandering spirits of its victims. These spirits are understood to sometimes replicate the state violence and perpetrate it on community members, and at other times are seen as heroes who sacrificed themselves for the well-being of the community.

The Max Planck Institute for Religion and Ethnic Diversity is dedicated “to the multi-disciplinary study of diversity in historical and contemporary societies, particularly concerning ethnic and religious forms and dynamics ... work (that) entails basic empirical research aimed at theoretical development.”

The Max Planck Society is a formally independent, nongovernmental and nonprofit association of German research institutes publicly funded by the federal and 16 state governments of Germany. It is named in honor of its former president, Max Planck, a German theoretical physicist who originated quantum theory, which revolutionized human understanding of atomic and subatomic processes and won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918. The Times (UK) Higher Education Supplement rankings of non-university research institutions, based on international peer review by academics, placed the Max Planck Society as first in the world for science research.