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.
P. Steven Sangren
Terms such as 'fate' and 'luck' are ways of talking about the ambiguities and antinomies of temporal existence that all humans, even social theorists, have to confront in one form or another. Concepts that include mana, śakti, baraka, and orenda might best be considered as grappling with the exact same paradoxes. Nor should we assume that social scientific approaches are necessarily more sophisticated. Current discourse on 'performativity', for instance, seems in certain ways rather crude when compared to the Malagasy concept of hasina (usually translated as 'sacred power'), which takes on the same dilemma—what I call the 'paradox of performativity'—in a far more nuanced way.
How the History of the World Turned on the Randomness of a Sunny Morning One Hundred Years Ago
A series of random, chance and synchronous events between 10:00 A.M. and 11:00 A.M. on 28 June 1914 catalysed the world into a war, the reverberations of which are still with us. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his young wife by a Bosnian Serb unfolded through a sequence of unpredictable events, the absence of any one of which would have led history off into another direction. Although history is often thought about as if what actually happened had to happen – what Henri Bergson termed 'the illusions of retrospective determinism' – the events of that sunny June day belie that view. When in the Torah (Numbers 20) Moses strikes the rock, rather than speaking to it, there is a mystery involved as to why he acted as he did. But that moment sealed his fate. Acts which might seem insignificant at the time can have consequences, for us, our society, our world, that can never be imagined at the time – for good and for bad.
Explanatory Models, Philosophies and Behaviour
Analysis of my ethnographic data on medical popular culture in tribal south-west Iran, mostly from 1965 to 1983, suggests several traditional explanatory models and philosophical tenets that guide approaches to health issues. Empirical knowledge of natural processes motivates people to observe their bodily requirements. The belief in God's autocratic power is tempered with God's purported wish that people use their abilities to take responsibility for their health, complicating the notion of 'fate'. The various models provide health management choices. Traditionally, patients and healers shared these models, acting on the same cosmological assumptions.
The Human-Fish Nexus in Lake Baikal
Nicholas B. Breyfogle
This article explores the history of fishing on Lake Baikal in an effort to understand the fish-human nexus, to expand our understandings of the Russian relationship to the environment before the twentieth century, and to think about the colonial encounter in Siberia from an environmental angle. Fishing has long been a crucial, life-sustaining, and culturally important component of life at Baikal; and fish and people have long existed in mutually influential and intertwined webs of relations. Fish populations declined markedly in Baikal from the late eighteenth century on-a drop with which Soviet fishers and policymakers continued to struggle throughout the twentieth century. The fate of Baikal's fish was the result of 1) the tax-farming, market-based economic structures of tsarist colonialism and 2) the new fishing technologies that Russian settlers brought with them to the practice of fishing-both of which were "revolutionary" transformations from the pre-colonial Buriat and Evenk fishing methods and systems. Notably, this massive fish population decrease came about before any industrial change affected the area. Humans, this story shows, do not need to have industrial machines with their extractive capabilities and pollution by-products in order to bring about systemic ecological and evolutionary changes.
Tiina Ann Kirss
, in its pursuit of rapid publication and obedient indexing pays little attention in practice to the need for such education of those who will, in the future, decide about the fate of the foreigner at their threshold, let alone the third of their
Eric Werner, Wissenschaft des Judenthums, and the Postwar Reconstruction of Jewish Music Study
Judah M. Cohen
yet I produce and my products are praised … Where is the discrepancy? Is that what the Greeks called … fate? It's au fond unimportant, since I'm not a fatalist. Ducunt fata volentem! [Seneca: ‘The fates lead the willing’.] 32 Werner instead
Landmark anthropological works on fame have shown that gift-giving is often the vehicle for producing relations of 'positive value' and recognition. When viewing fame against the related notion of fortune, however, the focal point of study shifts to how people produce reputations that are 'beyond value' or 'priceless'. This article proposes that the Nuosu of Southwest China enter into an ongoing 'economy of ordeals' in order to accumulate priceless 'tokens of value' that increase their 'fate-fortune' and fame. It shows that ambitious Nuosu accept new ordeals to achieve fame, while comfortably viewing their accomplishments as akin to those of a predatory spider. Tellingly, though, these efforts are vulnerable to the counter-extractive maneuvers of other people and ghosts, which present the Nuosu with new ordeals that could deplete their resources.
Shift , Spread, and Disjunction in a Conceptual Trajectory
Jörg Thomas Richter
Hugo de Vries’s Mutation Theory (1901–1903) fell on fertile ground in the evolutionary sciences around the year 1900. Aside from the impact it had on biology, the concept of mutation also spread into a variety of non-biological discourses, including philosophy, sociology, historiography, and philology. The article follows the trajectory of de Vries’s concept through the discursive landscapes of the early 1900s and the 1960s. From its inception in the 1900s, the cultural imagination of mutation marks a field of conceptual crossing over rather than a mere takeover from biology.
Portuguese Expectations over Modernisation
In Portugal, terms such as 'modernisation', 'progress' and 'development' are continually invoked by a wide range of social actors, representing the right path and ultimate goal of all political and social change, but on the other hand conceal the actual truth that, to use Latour's expression: 'We have never been modern'. The result is that the demand for modernisation is accompanied by the parallel reification of 'backwardness'. Alluding to Portugal's peripheral condition, to its distance from the rest of Europe and so forth, is part of common everyday discourse, and the country is typically portrayed as a kind of European backwater, forever lagging behind more advanced states. This article aims to present and discuss how backwardness and modernisation are recurrently present in political discourse as a leitmotiv for social, economic and cultural change and the way it is incorporated into a broader and rooted self-representation of the Portuguese modus vivendi and national features.