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The Elementary Economies of Dechenwa Life

Fortune, Vitality, and the Mountain in Sino-Tibetan Borderlands

Giovanni da Col

This article presents some images and conceptual structures surrounding notions of fortune and luck among Dechen Tibetans in southwest China and reflects on the strategies for negotiating the integrity of persons and other 'social containers'. First, it analyzes the problem in separating the multifarious manifestations of fortune connected to the well-being and vitality of persons and households. Secondly, it examines the ethnographic concepts arising from the interface between fortune and sovereignty by illustrating the cosmological imagination surrounding contemporary state rituals focused on the cult of Mt. Khawa Karpo. Finally, musing on the relation between vitality, containership, and alterity, the article highlights how tracing the flows of fortune problematizes the divide between interiority and exteriority, or the question of where the outside and the inside of a being or a society begin.

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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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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.

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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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German Displaced Persons Camps (1945-1948)

Orthodox Jewish Responses to the Holocaust

Gershon Greenberg

Orthodox Jews in postwar German Displaced Persons camps experienced the Holocaust's rupture of God's covenantal relationship with history and the eclipse of sacred reality. They sought to recapture that reality, even though the continuity of tradition that held it had been shattered. This was done by voluntarily reviving tradition, as if by doing so the sacred could be invoked. Following momentary suspension, they sought to restore ethnic-generational purity and traditional ritual. They invested holiday celebration with Holocaust meaning. On the level of thought they expanded Israel's metahistory to include the unprecedented tragedy and intensified their own contributions of Torah and Teshuvah to the higher drama, and recommitted their trust that divine light was implicit to reality's darkness.

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God Does Not Play Dice with the Universe, or Does He?

Anthropological Interlocutions of Sport and Religion

Thomas F. Carter

Religion has been a central object of anthropological inquiry since its earliest days. In contrast, sport has remained an ancillary object of interest at best. Nonetheless, anthropologists have written some provocative analyses that challenge other disciplinary approaches to sport. Principally, those analyses emerged out of anthropological approaches to religion. Concerned with the ways in which anthropology theorizes and analyzes both religion and sport, this article begins by assessing the modern-day myth that 'sport is a religion'. It then compares subject-specific approaches to the relationships between sport and religion. The article then moves to the anthropological focus on ritual as it developed in the study of religion and how those ideas were then applied to analyses of sport. The article concludes with an examination of how the anthropology of sport has moved beyond those initial efforts before discussing various anthropological approaches to sport and religion.

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T.S. Kalandarov and A.A. Shoinbekov

This article describes some aspects of funeral rites among indigenous people of the Badakhshan autonomous region in Tajikistan, for most of whom the religious denomination is Ismailism. The ceremonies focus on ritual purification and seeing off the soul of the deceased person into another world. A set of obligatory rituals and rites are described, including lamp lighting, mourning rules, and memorial foods and celebrations. After analysing a wide range of data, the authors conclude that Western Pamir Ismailites believe that a dead body is inhabited by a corpse demon that brings harm to people. Although the described customs and rituals are generally Muslim and reflect features of the traditional Pamir world view, they are most probably part of the region's pre-Islamic heritage.

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Tangki War Magic

The Virtuality of Spirit Warfare and the Actuality of Peace

Margaret Chan

Tangki spirit-medium worship is practiced in the Hokkien communities of Southeast Asia and Taiwan. Tangkis are exorcists who perform war magic using the ritual theater of self-mortification. A tangki pierces his body with rods and swords in order to be supercharged with the spirit-power of the weapons for the battle with evil. Self-mortification can also enact a bodhisattva sacrifice of the body on behalf of devotees. The virtuality of the ritual theater convinces believers of the actuality of exorcism, which will ensure peace and safety in the reality of the everyday.

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Maria Sabaye Moghaddam

Zâr denotes a class of spirits, the illness that they cause when descending upon a person and the ritual that is necessary to pacify the spirits and secure the alleviation of the patient's symptoms. The ritual involves holding a ceremony where incense, music and movement play a role in appeasing the Zâr to provide relief for the patient. This article, based on field studies carried out in 2007-2009, provides a current account of Zâr practices in Bandar Abbâs and Qeshm Island in Iran.

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Ritualizing the Everyday

The Dangerous Imperative of Hospitality in Apiao, Chiloé

Giovanna Bacchiddu

Based on an analysis of ethnographic data collected in Apiao, Chiloé, this article offers a view of relations as inescapably fraught connections between different entities. These relations are articulated in highly ritualized hospitality practices involving reciprocal exchange of food and drinks in a domestic space. Cutting across established, contrasting analytical categories, such as consanguines/affines and friends/enemies, hospitality practices reveal the immanence of otherness. Relations can occur only among different/differentiated individuals and are always expressed through an alternation of the contingent positions of host and guest, where one offers and another receives. In hospitality interactions, sameness is denied and transformed into otherness, revealing the importance of asymmetry and disclosing the latent hostility and potential danger implicit in relations. The other is first and foremost a dangerous and unpredictable guest.