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Comparative Perspectives on Divination and Ontology

William Matthews

Many divination systems are epistemologically justified according to an explicit ontology: results are attributed to the work of an agent (gods, spirits) or to a cosmic principle (as in the Chinese concept qi). Analytically, we can thus distinguish between divination based on ‘agentive ontology’, which raises the possibility of deception by gods or spirits, and ‘calculatory ontology’, which understands verdicts as calculations based on fixed principles. The relationship between explicit ontology and epistemic affordance, including the circumstances under which divination is subject to ontological explanation, suggests large-scale comparative questions concerning the wider socio-political and economic correlates of agentive and calculatory systems. These are exemplified in this special issue by the divergences between divination systems in the Greco-Roman world, in Han China, and among the Nuosu.

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Dan Brockington

center of calculation, surrounded by a network of allies … The quantification of qualities is as much an administrative accomplishment as an intellectual one. And no matter what the skeptics may say, many social qualities have already been successfully

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Julián Antonio Moraga Riquelme, Leslie E. Sponsel, Katrien Pype, Diana Riboli, Ellen Lewin, Marina Pignatelli, Katherine Swancutt, Alejandra Carreño Calderón, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Sergio González Varela, Eugenia Roussou, Juan Javier Rivera Andía, Miho Ishii, Markus Balkenhol, and Marcelo González Gálvez

reading for the public at large. Marina Pignatelli ISCSP-University of Lisbon Note 1 The Masorti movement is identified with Conservative Judaism, often described as ‘traditional’. LI, Geng, Fate Calculation Experts: Diviners Seeking

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Jonathan Magnonet

"All the calculated ends have already passed, and it now depends entirely on repentance and good deeds" (Sanhédrin). This rabbinic word of caution about anticipating the exact date of the arrival the Messiah would apply to all such hopes and calculations associated eschatological movements throughout history, as well as expectations bound the new millennium. Whether waiting for a new heaven to descend peacefully on earth or some final apocalyptic disaster, presumably covered by CNN, energies unleashed by the concept of the new millennium could be turned 'repentance and good deeds' the world might indeed be transformed messianic place. But the odds seem to be against such a radical transformation.

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The Chicken and the Egg

Cracking the Ontology of Divination in Southwest China

Katherine Swancutt

Which comes first, divine agency or the calculations of diviners? Both are integral to divination, other predictive methods, and the ‘hatching out’ of new creation stories among the Nuosu of Southwest China. In this article, I present ethnography on divination in which eggs evoke the person’s position in the world while the bodies or bones of chickens are indices of health or prosperity. When cracking open raw eggs, peeling open slaughtered chickens, or reading chicken bones, diviners creatively draw upon the assistance of spirits and their own calculatory reflections in ways that encourage internal variation within their craft. Through case studies on illnesses and a new family tradition, I show that Nuosu inhabit a hybrid world that features cosmological proliferation, to which the creativity of divination responds.

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Chinese Eight Signs Prediction

Ontology, Knowledge, and Computation

Stéphanie Homola

How do ontological assumptions in divination shape the structure of the techniques and the way practitioners understand their capacity to know about human fate? In eight signs divination—a birthdate-based method used to predict the fate of an individual—human lives are said to be determined by Heaven, an infallible and impersonal force that regulates everything in the cosmos through the expansionary flow of correlative cosmology and qi transformations. Such ontological assumptions correspond to epistemological operations as can be seen in the concrete working of eight signs divination in Taiwan. Eight signs prediction relies on classificatory and reductive mathematical procedures—involving congruence and combinatorial calculations—to logically unfold a deterministic and cyclical cosmos.

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Dangerous speculation

The appeal of pyramid schemes in rural Siberia

Leonie Schiffauer

, an alleged instrument of calculation, is used as a key device for this purpose and thought of as a tool for demonstrating the opportunities that the scheme offers. Tsyregma, the most experienced among the WIC Holding partners who were actively pushing

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Overcoming the Quantity-Quality Divide in Economic Anthropology

Sandy Ross, Mario Schmidt, and Ville Koskinen

( Çalışkan 2007 ; MacKenzie and Millo 2003 ), and on calculation itself, whether ‘rational’ or otherwise, very little has been written on how the enumeration of money’s purchasing power is negotiated by ordinary people in everyday life. 3 This special issue

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William A. Quinn

state of suspension – neither compelling nor negligible. In a highly artificial calculation of the ‘artificial day’ (II, 2), Herry Bailley determines it is 10:00 a.m. on 18 April. Here, Herry is actually reading shadows (II, 7, 10) even though the

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Everyday Suffering and the Abstract Time-Reckoning of Law

Reflections on the Allocation of Responsibility for an Asbestos Disaster in Italy

David Loher

silicate mineral compound composed of long microscopic fibres. Cheap, abundantly available, fire-proof, acid-resistant, and light, it became the emblematic material of the post-World War II economic expansion. Robert L. Virta's (2006) calculations for the