This article explores the Japanese notion of luck as a relational mode of action that encapsulates a complex understanding about self, society, and cosmos. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered in 30 urban homes in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara) in 2003, I aim to demonstrate how, by engaging in a range of material practices, people create beneficial connections with spirits, people, and places to protect the home from malevolent influences and to ensure the happiness and well-being of its occupants. It will be argued that this protective system can be maintained only through both the relentless 'labor of luck' performed by married women as 'moral persons' and the persistent circulation of luck between religious institutions, commercial businesses, and homes.
Luck and the Lived Experience of Relatedness in Contemporary Japan
Based on fieldwork in Zabaikal'e, this report describes Orochen hunters' and reindeer herders' uses and interpretations of fire. Ethnographic evidence presents a wide use of fire and smoke in daily life in the taiga. Fire and smoke play a crucial role in reindeer herding and hunting of ungulates and fur animals. The author argues that fire symbols are an important part of Orochen cosmology and relate to broader themes of hunting magic, mastery, and the perception of animals. Research into the cosmological knowledge of fire uses provides us with a broader scope of interpretation of camping characteristics and land use.
Popular Religious Practices and Perceptions in the Middle East and Central Asia
Mary Elaine Hegland
People at the popular level often hold religious perceptions and engage in religious practices that make sense to them within their own existential situations, even if they fall outside orthodoxy. Although political leaders and religious authorities may attempt to mould people’s religious perceptions and practices according to their own ideas and interpretations of religion, people frequently find ways to evade or ignore such pressures, to rationalise their deviations or to continue to live and think according to their own self-generated religious frameworks. The authors of the articles in this special issue provide examples of how people’s actual practices and religious beliefs arise out of their own personal situations and histories though at odds with the pronouncements of religious specialists.
A Japanese–Korean Recipe for Post-conflict Reconciliation
Stephanie Hobbis Ketterer
Mimicking research and practice that demonstrates the importance of seemingly mundane acts for resolving protracted conflicts, this article enquires into the potential contributions of food-related practices to post-conflict reconciliation. Based on fieldwork with a Japanese–South Korean reconciliation initiative (Koinonia), the argument is made that food-related practices can create the spatio-temporal conditions necessary to mitigate successfully situations that may otherwise be characterised by misunderstandings, animosity and an unwillingness to move beyond dividing lines. It is demonstrated that food-related practices have the capacity to influence reconciliation positively throughout the three stages that are perceived as vital for building lasting relationships between conflicting parties: encouragement of participation in reconciliation events (stage 1), encouragement of positive interaction during reconciliation events (stage 2) and sustainability of reconciliation events after participants re-enter daily life and the likely negative perceptions of the Other therein (stage 3).
'Luck' as a Relational Process among Hunting Peoples of the Siberian Forest in Pre-Soviet Times
Roberte N. Hamayon
This article is based on data from pre-Soviet Siberia, mainly, the West Buryat and Tungus Evenk groups. As a product that cannot be produced, game is an ideal example of something that requires 'luck'. Far from being passively received, luck requires an active behavior and implies controlled interactions with various types of agencies of the natural environment and within society. Luck is the outcome of a multirelational process that starts with multiple precautionary measures, continues with fostering, and ends with sharing practices. This action results, paradoxically, in challenging both equality and differentiation, social redistribution and individual responsibility. Throughout this process, luck is associated with meat and vital force (as a substance) and with love, play, and wealth (as a value).
Shamanic Sickness, Spirit Embodiment, and Fragmentary Trancescape in Contemporary Buriat Shamanism
During fieldwork on a contemporary revival of shamanism in Buriatiia in the summer of 2005, I was initially puzzled by what I had witnessed. The spirits that were embodied by the shamans were interacting with the audience. Afterward, the shamans did not remember what had occurred while they were in trance. To me, it resembled what has been described as spirit-mediumship performance. While discussing this with shamans, their initial response was that Buriat shamanism is real shamanism, insisting that authentic trance is unconscious, while at the same time dismissing other forms as fake. Later, however, some quietly admitted that Buriat shamans used to be able to remember their ecstatic journeys, and eventually they will be able to regain this ability. I argue that the post-trance amnesia among the contemporary Buriat neo-shamans is the result of the disruption caused by the Soviet anti-religious legacy, which inhibited Buriats to progress to higher degrees of initiation.
What Has Changed after Twenty Years in Israel?
Larissa Remennick and Anna Prashizky
Most former Soviet immigrants who arrived in Israel had a secular or atheistic outlook, with only a small minority leaning toward Orthodox Judaism or Christianity. To understand how 20 years of life in the ethno-religious polity of Israel have influenced their religious beliefs and practices, we conducted a survey of a national sample of post-1990 immigrants. The findings suggest that most immigrants have adopted the signs and symbols of the Jewish lifestyle. They celebrate the major religious holidays in some form, and many are interested in learning more about Jewish culture and history. We interpret these changes mainly as an adaptive response aiming at social inclusion in the Israeli Jewish mainstream rather than actually emerging religiosity. Few immigrants observe the demanding laws of kashrut and Shabbat, and even fewer attend synagogues and belong to religious communities. Their expressed attitudes toward state-religion matters reflect their ethno-nationalist stance, which is more typical for ethnic Jews than for partial or non-Jews.
Brick factory work in postconflict Kailali, western Nepal
This article examines changing labor regimes in the wake of the Nepalese Maoist revolution through a historical and ethnographic exploration of brick factory in the Kailali district, western Nepal. I argue that the Maoist rebellion has helped to produce a new young, mobile, and urbanizing working class that in the new political context feels increasingly secure in claiming new spaces for its own emerging pleasure, pastimes, and sociality vis-à-vis existing hierarchies and customs. I further show that there is a broad base for solidarities among more and less skilled people within this proletariat, though such solidarity does not yet seem to reach beyond “ethnic” and linguistic boundaries. Highlighting these facets of the transformation of everyday labor regimes in a sociopolitical context that is in a high state of flux and change, the article looks into the consequences of the Maoist revolution in the working lives of ordinary people.
Tantric Principles in Tamil Tiger Instrumentalities
This study highlights the Tantric threads within the transcendental religions of Asia that reveal the commanding role of encirclement as a mystical force. The cyanide capsule (kuppi) around the neck of every Tamil Tiger fighter was not only a tool of instrumental rationality as a binding force, but also a modality similar to a thāli (marriage bond necklace) and to participation in a velvi (religious animal sacrifice). It was thus embedded within Tamil cultural practice. Alongside the LTTE's politics of homage to its māvīrar (dead heroes), the kuppi sits beside numerous incidents in LTTE acts of mobilization or military actions where key functionaries approached deities in thanks or in preparation for the kill. These practices highlight the inventive potential of liminal moments/spaces. We see this as modernized 'war magic'—a hybrid re-enchantment energizing a specific religious worldview.
Theft, Disgust and Ritual Practice in Central Lombok, Indonesia
Kari G. Telle
In this essay I examine a form of stealing that people in rural Sasak communities on the island of Lombok find deeply problematic because of its intimate nature: theft of which they suspect that someone in their own hamlet or village is culpable. In the large village in central Lombok where I have carried out fieldwork, theft that is attributed to a so-called ‘neighbourhood thief’ is said to produce a foul smell (bais) that begins to ooze out from where the theft occurred, enveloping the neighbourhood in a putrid stench.1 This smell is particularly intense when the thief is not caught in the act of stealing, but manages to slip away. In connection with a theft of two heirloom daggers and several pieces of old cloth that occurred one Saturday night in June 2001 and of which a close neighbour soon emerged as a suspect, Bapen Seni, a man who lives nearby, commented in disgust: ‘Now this neighbourhood really stinks [bais gubuk]! The stench is smelled even far away, it cannot be sealed off.’