Author: Hillary S. Webb
University of New Mexico Press, 2012
One of the most well-known and defining features of the Peruvian Andean worldview is yanantin, the belief that the polarities of existence (male/female, dark/light, inner/outer, etc.) are interdependent parts of a harmonious whole. This model of engagement is in stark contrast to the underlying Western philosophical viewpoint that the opposites exist in an eternal war for dominance.
Between 2007-2009, as part of my PhD research, I traveled to central Peru to explore the degree to which one’s relationship with the world differs depending on whether one views existence as engaging in a “battle” or in a “dance.”
In the beginning, I imagined this investigation would be an entirely scholarly endeavor, in which I would maintain a certain emotional distance from my subject matter. That assumption would change real quick.
On my first day of fieldwork, I asked my friend, Amado, a young shaman from the high Andes, how to define yanantin:
“Out of respect, I do not define it,” he responded, his eyes drifting toward the mountains that surrounded us. “All I know of it is its mystery.”
His answer took me aback, but I pushed on.
“Would you be willing to let me interview you?” I asked him.
An amused smile crossed Amado’s face as he turned to face me.
“Yes, princesa,” he said. “You can interview me. But may I suggest that you download the information from the cosmos instead?”
What followed was a highly personal journey into a new way of seeing and being. This included an eventual “download” gained by going into ceremony with the mescaline-bearing cactus, San Pedro and a deep dive into the “four stages of reconciliation” that opposing pairs must go through in order to transform from a relationship of antagonism into one of mutual support.
From the Press
"An important book and a damn good read."
– Sacred Hoop magazine
“An outstanding, important work ... In addition to adding to the ethnographic literature about these fundamental concepts that inform Andean world views, it adds a fabulous case example that will be cited long into the future”
– Bonnie Glass-Coffin, PhD, author of The Gift of Life: Female Spirituality and Healing in Northern Peru
“Yanantin and Masintin in the Andean World recounts the compelling scholarly and personal odyssey of Dr. Hillary Webb, an anthropologist who came to understand the Andean complementary worldview as a sophisticated and practical philosophical model and, in doing so, was transformed both personally and professionally. Many readers of this book will no doubt be transformed as well.”
– Stanley Krippner, PhD, author, Psychiatrist in Paradise: Treating Mental Illness in Bali