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“I Was Not Willing to Risk my Hajj”

Information Coping Strategies of Hajj Pilgrims

Nadia Caidi

information resources in varied ways as they prepare for and complete the rituals, and then return home (presumably) transformed. Beyond assessing how the participants (all of whom completed Hajj in the past five years) found, used, and shared information

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How popular Confucianism became embarrassing

On the spatial and moral center of the house in rural China

Hans Steinmüller

In the past, most farmhouses in central China had an ancestral shrine and a paper scroll with the Chinese letters for "heaven, earth, emperor, ancestors, and teachers" on the wall opposite the main entrance. The ancestral shrine and paper scroll were materializations of the central principles of popular Confucianism. This article deals with their past and present. It describes how in everyday action and in ritual this shrine marked a spatial and moral center. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) the ancestral shrines and paper scrolls were destroyed, and replaced by a poster of Mao Zedong. Although the moral principles of popular Confucianism were dismissed by intellectuals and politicians, Mao Zedong was worshipped in ways reminiscent of popular Confucian ritual. The Mao poster and the paper scroll stand for a continuity of a spatial-moral practice of centering. What has changed however is the public evaluation of such a local practice, and this tension can produce a double embarrassment. Elements of popular Confucianism (which had been forcefully denied in the past) remain somewhat embarrassing for many people in countryside. At the same time urbanites sometimes inversely perceive the Maoist condemnation of popular Confucianism as an awkward survival of peasant narrow-mindedness—all the more so as Confucian traditions are now reinvented and revitalized as cultural heritage.

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Unpacking the Museum Register

Institutional Memories of the Potlatch Collection Repatriation

Emma Knight

Society 1975 ; Sanborn 2009 ; Saunders 1995 ; 1997 ; Webster 1988 , 1991 , 1992 , 1995 ). My contribution seeks to place this case within a discussion of administrative repatriation rituals. Terence Turner (1977: 61–62) defines ritual as

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The “power of silence”

Spirituality and women's agency beyond the Catholic Church in Poland

Agnieszka Kościańska

This article looks at various models of women's agency in Poland in the context of religion. Based on fieldwork among members of two feminized religious milieus—a new religious movement the Brahma Kumaris and an informal Catholic fundamentalist group—this article discusses the role of silence in ritual and everyday life as a form of agency. From the perspective of feminist discourse, particularly Western liberal feminism, silence is often interpreted as a lack of power. Drawing on informants' experiences, under Polish gender regimes, particularly as they relate to the organization of public and private spheres, silence is shown to be a fundamental component of agency. The analysis of silence displays the complexity of religious issues in Poland and serves as a critique of assumptions about religious homogeneity and the pervasiveness of religious authority in Poland.

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Montenegro versus Crna Gora

The rival hagiographic genealogies of the new Montenegrin polity

Alice Forbess

This article examines how hero-ancestor-saints came to be drawn into contestations over heritage, economic assets, and ritual between two rival groups of Orthodox clerics and their political and entrepreneurial backers. After Montenegro's secession from Serbia (2006), pro- and anti-Serbian factions of the population have been mobilized under the banners of the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC) and of the recently formed Montenegrin Orthodox Church (MOC). As spheres of authority are being carved out in the new polity, competing political and sacred genealogies are used to articulate the nation's descent through earlier state projects in the region. This article examines how Orthodox notions of charisma and leadership intersect with the heroic traditions of highland clans and contemporary state processes to create specific forms of authority inscribed in divine kinship genealogies.

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Mandinga

Power and Deception in Afro-Brazilian Capoeira

Sergio González Varela

This article is about the meaning of mandinga in Afro-Brazilian capoeira as it is practiced in the city of Salvador, Brazil. Capoeira is an art form that combines elements of ritual, play, and fight. My main argument focuses on the mandinga as an indigenous form of power that shapes social relations, bodily interaction, magic acts, and the definition of a person. The concept of mandinga offers an understanding of the deceptive logic of capoeira and contributes to the development of an ethnographic theory of power. The emphasis here is on the importance of mandinga as a strategy for fighting and as a principle for social interaction with strong ontological implications. It is considered a cosmological force that affects the foundations of subjective reality and the perception of the world.

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The Power of Music

Issues of Agency and Social Practice

Norman Long

This article aims to contribute to the increasingly rich body of ethnographic and sociological studies that focus on processes of musical practice. After a brief introduction to the significance of music in social life, it outlines the advantages of adopting an actor-oriented analysis that gives close attention to issues of agency and emergent socio-cultural forms. This is followed by a brief encounter with the dynamics of musical performance as perceived by members of the Guarneri Quartet, after which two contrasting musical scenarios are analyzed in depth. The first focuses on music and ritual practices in the Peruvian Andes, and the second on the English musical renaissance of the early twentieth century. The article closes with a brief comment on the need to examine in depth the social components of musical composition and performance.

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The 'Gendered Field' of Kaolinite Clay Production

Performance Characteristics among the Balengou

Ngambouk V. Pemunta

This article examines the 'gendered field' of kaolinite clay production and its integration into the local socio-cultural universe of the Balengou of the Western region of Cameroon. Kaolinite clay is produced and ingested mainly by women, especially during pregnancy so as to ensure that their children are born 'clean'. Used as a herbal additive, the clay is also believed to be imbued with sacred qualities and has a symbolic role in various communal rituals. Although geophagy—the practice of eating earth—is associated with harmful health effects, the various affordances offered by kaolinite clay as a valuable object of material culture constitute a specific entanglement of nature and culture. This study makes a modest contribution to the literature on the 'politics of value' and on the relationality of human/non-human interactions.

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Vital Energy

The Current of Relations

Stephen Gudeman

'Vital energy' is a central idea in the economies of Panama and Colombia. Known as 'strength' or 'force', and assembled from the environment, this current connects all activities in the local economies and establishes relationships, from kin to strangers. Humans compose vital energy, but its sources are limited, and it is expended in use. Its availability is a gift from God and part of the unpredictable fortune that faces everyone. This economy exhibits a contrast between a social current and a market currency. It offers a materialist perspective, provides a critique of standard economics, suggests that sharing rather than reciprocity or rational choice is the 'fundamental' economic practice, and shows how an economy may be a kind of ritual legitimated by a belief in divine power that is displayed through personal fortune.

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Laki Charms

'Luck' and Personal Agency in North Mekeo Social Change

Mark S. Mosko

Notions and practices known by the Tok Pisin term laki ('lucky' or 'luck') have for long been widespread across Melanesia. Previous studies have tended to concentrate on laki as 'probabilistic chance' and on its secular (i.e., economic, political, recreational) expressions, most notably in card gambling. Drawing on the perspective of the New Melanesian Ethnography, I focus instead upon the magico-ritual dimensions of laki in a single Papua New Guinean society, North Mekeo, where laki has been adapted to indigenous notions of 'dividual' personal agency that differ radically from exogenous ideas of success through 'pure chance'. On this evidence, I argue that the different perceptions of laki and 'luck' or 'lucky' by North Mekeo and Westerners are indicative of the divergent sorts of agency and sociality that are culturally compatible, respectively, with dividual and individual personhood.