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Moral Topology and the Making of Cosmological Boundaries

The Case of Neo-Pentecostal Exorcism in Brazil

Matan Shapiro

Seeking to uproot evil from people’s life, neo-Pentecostal exorcists in Brazil separate between internal and external bodily surfaces and then ‘close’ the victim’s entire body to protect against further malignant intrusion. Based on fieldwork in Brazil and the analysis of expulsion videos online, I demonstrate that exorcists self-consciously use topological imaginaries of connectedness and disjunction to generate a reality in which demons and humans occupy mutually exclusive ontological domains. I argue that the moral transformation that these rituals encourage is thus contingent on the successful disentanglement of bodily surfaces, which distinguishes inside from outside and humans from demons. I use the term ‘moral topology’ to analyze this process and call for further cross-cultural attention to the ethnographic vitality of topological imaginaries in the making of cosmological boundaries.

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Gabriele Shenar

Focusing on the aesthetic, moral, and affective economies of one-day multisite pilgrimage tours of Indian-Jewish Israelis to the tombs of tzaddikim (“righteous persons”) as well as venerated sites of biblical figures in Israel, the article explores how the neoliberal idea of entrepreneurial competitiveness assists in mobilizing and sustaining culturally valued moral and aesthetic inclinations. Furthermore, it foregrounds the “multisensoriality” of religiously defined practice, emotion, and belief and their role in the production of an Indian-Jewish ambiance and the narratives that it elicits. Clearly, throughout their pilgrimage, Indian-Jewish Israelis carve out their own spaces in which they author the sacred sites and cultural landscapes that they visit through aesthetic engagement, embodied ritual, and, more generally, sensory enactment. However, in order to achieve the desired ambiance, Indian-Jewish pilgrims must to some extent become entrepreneurs or consumers in Israel’s flourishing market of folk veneration both with regard to homegrown and imported saintly Jewish figures.

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Introduction

Shamans and Sacred Landscapes in Buriatiia

Katherine Metzo

The three articles in this issue of Sibirica focus on the ways in which sacred landscapes have been (re)integrated into the ritual life of indigenous Buriats, as well as how they can become contested terrains. Once considered the opiate of the masses by Soviet leaders, religion is no longer “dangerous” in Russia. Decades of institutionalized atheism have taken their toll, however, as sacred sites have been secularized, shamans have lost links to their ongons, and Buriats have forgotten their clan affiliations. In the past decade and a half, shamanism has reemerged and practitioners are striving to revive and re-invent the practice to return shamanism to a central position in the everyday lives of rural and urban communities.

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Eleanor Rimoldi

Sacrifice is an act and a concept of considerable importance to contemporary conflict. However, interpretations of the role and nature of sacrifice vary historically, culturally, and situationally. This article discusses the various ways that sacrifice has been interpreted in the anthropological literature, including an analysis of forms of conflict, negotiation, and sacrifice pertaining to Bougainville. Professional conciliators and government emissaries negotiating a solution to the Bougainville conflict brought into play ideologies and processes they often claimed were based on an understanding of indigenous ways of resolving conflict. A critical assessment of this claim discusses the possible effects of the co-option of ritual and traditional means of negotiation and considers what is lost in translation.

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'Being in Between'

Art-Science Collaborations and a Technological Culture

James Leach

Recent experimental collaborations in the United Kingdom have brought artists and scientists together in order to explore new possibilities for research. There is a particular sense of timeliness felt by organizers and participants of these projects that, in part, mirrors concerns about the trajectory and implications of scientific research more generally in society. Faith in the transformative power of technology is combined with explicit concerns over how much control humanity is able to exert over the dynamic of technological development. Highlighting an analogy with Papua New Guinean ritual, I suggest that the scheme discussed here is one of a number of ways in which people attempt to take control over powerful forces beyond their everyday experience—in this case, the apparently 'runaway' character of technological development and the implications that this development has for social change. The article is framed by a discussion of the role of social-scientific evaluation in the scheme.

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Rights to Recognition

Minority/Indigenous Politics in the Emerging Taiwanese Nationalism

Kun-hui Ku

The demand for rights to recognition among the indigenous activists in Taiwan was part of a larger movement for democratization before the lifting of martial law and was supported by international concurrence. The transfer of power from the Nationalist Party (KMT) regime to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) marks a rising consciousness of Taiwanese nationalism. By examining public discourses/rituals and the debates about the organizational reforms, I show how the changing perceptions and status of the indigenous population within the state are used to legitimize the new national identity. By examining the political processes involved in the politics of recognition, on the other hand, I also explore how the indigenous activists exploit to their advantage opportunities that have arisen during the national restructuring.

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Pragmatic Action and Enchanted Worlds

A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration

Michael Roberts

Since Weber's time, it has been believed that 'enchantment' progressively gave way to secular rationalism and its disenchanted ways. This essay breaks the twinning of enchantment with 'irrationality' in developing the argument that enchanted practices and pragmatic methods co-exist fruitfully in the activities of the LTTE. Circumstantial evidence, arising from pictures and descriptions of hero rituals sponsored by the LTTE, provides the foundation for this argument. It is suggested that the Saivite universe of being has nourished these symbolic compositions. A photograph of Black Tigers paying homage to their dead with guns in the left hand and flowers in the right provides a condensed demonstration as well as a point of departure for this suggestion. It is a moment of conjunctiveness that has the potential to fuse past, present, and future, thus achieving 'fusion force'.

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Revising a Four-Square Model of a Complicated Whole

On the Cultural Politics of Religion and Education

Amy Stambach

Oddly but tellingly, anthropology has largely treated religion and education separately. Anthropological studies of education have tended to focus on reason and rationality, while those of religion have focused on ritual, belief, magic, and ceremony. Yet there is a missed opportunity, I argue in this essay—one that is perhaps hidden by the history of anthropology itself—for seeing religion and education as folding into one another and at times being indistinguishable. Viewing religion and education as recursively related—including in anthropological and social theory—opens up a conceptual locus and mode for analyzing how the public realm is being newly transformed, and how political orders and governmental regimes emerge, sometimes in accord with, other times in contradistinction to, a 'four-square' model of 'public-education/private-religion' that is associated classically with the modern state.

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Nation Building and the Battle for Consciousness

Discourses on Education in Post-Apartheid Namibia

Mattia Fumanti

Education carries strong emotional connotation in Africa, not least for its association with emancipation, liberation, and social mobility. Drawing on research conducted in Northern Namibia, this essay examines how education is conceived by a cadre of elite, educated professionals working in the Ministry of Basic Education regional offices. It contrasts these officials' views with those of white settlers, many of whom, in contrast, place their faith in the market, not in a regulatory state—and certainly not in a regional educational office. Whereas elite officials deploy images of education for purposes of state making and state ceremonialism, white businessmen use education to undo officials' authority, with the effect, implicitly, of reinscribing apartheid visions of race and governance. This article draws on, and offers ethnographic evidence in support of, a body of theoretical work on state-ritualized uses of education, civil religion, and the moral character (and counter-morality) of state education.

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Tova Gamliel

The wailing of Yemenite Jewish women, as preserved in the Yemenite Jewish community in Israel, is presented as a case study for analysis of and comparison with other existing wailing cultures. The article uses a model of identities to examine anthropological conventions that interpret death rituals as rites of transition and crisis. A well-known function of wailing—as a bridge between life and death—is decoded in view of the model. The gender dimension of wailing is examined by counterposing and juxtaposing feminine wailing to masculine wailing at death events. The article describes the relative contributions of men and women to the stability of their community and analyzes the unique characteristics of the psycho-social power of women's wailing.