This article presents an analysis of the canoe racing ritual conducted in the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers bordering the town of Luang Prabang in North Laos as part of an annual ritual cycle. It focuses upon the ways in which the socio-political order, articulated in the ritual, is valorized in reference to a model of cosmological sovereignty that is manifested in offerings brought to aquatic spirit manifestations of a primordial King and his Queen-Consorts. It identifies the present-day changes in the ritual that have been implemented by the socialist Lao state as part of an endeavor to replace the principle of monarchic sovereignty with the authority of the state and to supplant the socio-cosmological understanding of society with a corporate model of bureaucracy and market economy variables.
Jos D. M. Platenkamp
Recurring Fieldwork in the Brazilian Candomblé
Setting out from fieldwork experiences in the ritual of the Brazilian Candomblé, this article aims to understand temporality in different ways. The significance of 'unfocused presence' in the field is discussed by way of the concept of 'deep hanging out'. The boredom experienced by the fieldworker is analyzed in relation to sentiments expressed by the people involved in ritual and the fieldworker's changing emotions over time, as previous experiences influence how time spent waiting is perceived. In ritual as well as in the interaction between fieldworker and the people in the field, temporality is deeply related to sociality and the aesthetics of social rhythm. It is concluded that the fieldworker is drawn into the time-geography of the field in a joint chore ography of social interaction.
Engaging Humphrey and Laidlaw’s ‘archetypal actions of ritual’, this article explores the thing-like and seemingly externally derived quality of ritualized action in ‘alternative’ medical settings in Mongolia. The cultural rupture of the Soviet era presents a case study in which the continuity of ritualized action cannot be assumed in ritual making during the post-1990 (re)construction of national culture. Elements derived from shared public knowledge have become constituted in ritual more recently and frequently than can be accounted for by an aperture-like model, where previously external elements gradually filtered in. Building on regional literature concerning loss of ritual form and recent syncretic innovation, I suggest that the affordances of form—mobility, iterability, and malleability—capture the politics inherent in the reordering of associations in the making of ritual.
This research report gives an ethnographic account of libations and ritual offerings in the shamanic culture of contemporary Western Buriats. Common ritual motifs are identified between libations in everyday practice, annual rites at the family hearth, and large-scale tailgan rituals. It is suggested that such practices mediate reciprocity between neighbors and reconstitute obligations of mutual help within kin groups. Finally, it is proposed that the vitality of the ritual complex today lies in its fundamental articulation of the principles of reciprocity and belonging in the context of rapid out-migration from the region and the atomization of kin groups.
State-church relationships and the vernacularization of the politics of memory
Since state atheism was abandoned in the 1990s, the Russian Federation entered what can be called a postsecular phase. Religion, formerly limited to the private sphere, reappeared in the public and underwent an astonishing religious revival. During the time of my fieldwork in 2006/2007, a tendency to favor the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and to facilitate its return to the public reached its climax. In this article I draw attention to how the political, the secular, and the religious are interconnected and allow for new vernacular forms of legitimating power and authority. One example is the introduction of new public holidays and public rituals. They connect local and national narratives and relate to ideas about the communality of the Russian people. They create new forms of a divine kinship, which draw heavily on religious and national symbols and merge the sacred and the profane.
This essay focuses on a strange medieval phenomenon, the so-called gift of tears—religious weeping that brings beatitude. This internal purifying process, which was embedded in the specific conditions of historical Christianity, was described and understood as a procedure in which God himself acts and, therefore, as a process that human-kind cannot learn, formalize, or ritualize. However, the author analyzes religious weeping as a peculiar, `intimate ritual' in which the formalized process took place in the soul or spirituality of the weeping person. This essay aims to describe and analyze this practice while examining the historical conditions that enabled such a cultural elaboration to develop.
A Case Study of Filipina Converts and Their Adult Children
Religious rituals, while comforting for believers, may be uncomfortable for those who do not share their manifold meanings. Catholic Filipinas who marry Muslim Iranian men face mandatory conversion to Islam, necessitating ongoing negotiations between Christianity and Islam. My research suggests that these Filipinas held their first religion dear while participating in – for them – unpleasant Shi’a Muslims rituals. Their Filipino/Iranian children, familiar from birth with Shi’a Islam, felt at home with both religions, no matter which one they chose for themselves. The discussion of converts’ perceptions of Shi’a rituals contributes to the literature on transnational marriages and marriage migration.
This article analyses one of the most important components of Kyrgyz culture - the tradition and ritual of hospitality. Features of traditional and modern hospitality are examined on the basis of literary sources and the author's fieldwork. The hospitality ritual and the norms associated with guests are discussed first in their traditional and then in their modern aspects. The author argues that ethnic specificities have been maintained on a large scale. Gender and age in the organisation of meals, as well as the prestige of meat dishes, continue to have traditional character, and the importance of hospitality has been imparted to younger generations. The author concludes that the interaction of innovations and traditions constitute the main content, development and present characteristics of Kyrgyz customs and hospitality rituals.
Benjamin Grant Purzycki
Tyvan conceptions of spirit masters, their attributed domains of knowledge, and their places of devotion show signs of an adaptive function. Drawing from current research in the cognitive and evolutionary ecological studies of religion, I analyze interview data collected in the Tyva Republic during the summer of 2009 and construct an interpretation for why the ritual stone cairn (ovaa) tradition evolved and persists in Central Asia. As spirit masters in Tyva are acutely concerned with sustained costs and most ovaa that people pass are on territories of non-kin, I argue that because of the ecology of the region, the ovaa practice evolved to provide places to signal solidarity to others. Given the logic of spirit masters' concerns and ritual practice at cairns and the ecological context in which they operate, these components of traditional Tyvan religion are adaptive insofar as they foster cooperation and social bonds.
P. Steven Sangren
For many Western observers, Chinese religion and cosmology appear rife with contradictions, among them the recurrent motif in litera- ture and myth of preordination or fate, on the one hand, and a relentless attempt, through ritual means, to discern, control, or change fate, on the other. This article argues that the obsession with fate and luck is best comprehended with reference to desire understood as a human universal. Underlying one's hope to control the future lies a psychologically more fundamental wish to claim ownership of one's being. I argue that fate and luck are operators in a symbolic economy that implicitly posits what Freud terms the 'omnipotence of thoughts'. Moreover, if the underlying principle of Chinese notions of fate and luck can be termed an 'economy of desire', it is a principle that also coordinates and encompasses Chinese patriliny, family dynamics, and wider collective institutions.