Carlos Castaneda: The Uses and Abuses of Ethnomethodology and Emic Studies

Corin Braga


Carlos Castaneda’s books and his New Age shamanistic religion raise, beyond the controversy regarding the counterfeit character of his ethnographic narrative and charlatanism, several methodological problems. Educated within the emerging paradigm of emic studies and ethnomethodoly of the 1960s, Castaneda used it in order to set a very clever methodological trap: Can an ethnologist and historian of religions discard a religious movement on account that its initiator is a charlatan or, at best, an enlightened or self-deluded individual? In order to tackle this dilemma, in this article I successively rally several methods and hermeneutics: reader-response theory, phenomenological anthropology, ethnomethodology and emic studies, psychoanalysis, fictional worlds theory, and “make believe / make belief” theatrical theory.


Carlos Castaneda, phenomenological anthropology, ethnomethodology, emic studies, psychoanalysis, fictional worlds theory, make believe / make belief, willing suspension of disbelief

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