For Mongols, fortune is not just acquired or lost accidentally. Rituals are held to create an upsurge of fortune, to beckon, absorb, contain, and act upon it. This article focuses on two kinds of fortune-sülde (potency) and hiimori (vitality)-and the ritualized means to restore these qualities that otherwise become depleted of their own accord. It is argued that these ideas of fortune are ways of linking subjects to cosmological forces 'out there'. The paradox is that, by binding fortune into their bodies in an attempt to garner invincibility, bravery, and energy, people resonate to pulses that glide among, and fly beyond, their other constitutive physical bodily elements. Such occasions when sülde and hiimori are in play call into being a certain kind of person who seems to be rendered, at least for a moment, at one with the void.
An Impersonal Subjectivity
Caroline Humphrey and Hürelbaatar Ujeed
Peter Gow and Margherita Margiotti
In this article, the authors explore the meanings of fortune among two peoples of Greater Amazonia. Luck, chance, and destiny play little role in the ethnographic record of this extensive region, and it is worth asking why this should be so. Two ethnographic cases are presented—the Kuna of Panama and the indigenous people of the Bajo Urubamba River in Peruvian Amazonia. The first describes what the ethnographer finds instead of elaborated discourses of luck and destiny in the Kuna conception of the person, while the second examines why the people of the Bajo Urubamba do not make use of such notions, which they are aware of from neighboring Andean people. The article concludes by looking at wider correlates of the Greater Amazonian concept of luck and the person in forms of social transmission and subsistence choices.
Natural Philosophies of Fortune—Luck, Vitality, and Uncontrolled Relatedness
Giovanni da Col
Despite the resurgence of interdisciplinary interest in concepts of fortune, luck, and chance, anthropology has failed to engage with the social imagination of these concepts and their incorporation into quotidian moralities and decisions. This essay, which introduces the first of two special issues on this topic, will first present different conceptions and uses of notions of luck and chance and their relation with moral ontologies and notions of skeptical efficacy. By focusing on the interface between cosmology, economics, and human relatedness—that is, cosmoeconomics—this introduction shall then highlight how idioms of luck and fortune foreground a social topology that explicates how innate conceptions of vitality and 'mystical' influence, deemed to be of uncertain and uncontrolled nature, are nonetheless able to connect humans and non-humans, organisms and material entities.
Accumulating and Dispersing Fortune in Mongolia
This article explores practices concerned with the accumulation of fortune in present-day Mongolia. By contrasting practices associated with the accumulation of animal herds, children, and immovable property, we see how some are viewed as morally commendable while others are considered morally suspect. It is suggested that when people accumulate too much fortune, misfortune strikes, thereby ensuring the redistribution and release of fortune. By examining the different ways in which fortune and wealth may be released, harnessed, or contained, more general ideas about new ways of accumulating wealth and the dangers of excess in the market economy emerge.
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.
Managing Fortune in Astrological Counseling in Contemporary India
Anthropological studies on causality in South Asia in the past decades have focused mostly on local idioms of 'mis fortune', with very little attention being paid to ideas of 'fortune' and 'luck'. This article, based on fieldwork carried out among astrologers and their clients in Banaras, shows that astrology provides an ideological framework for the conceptualization and management of fortune in present-day urban India. According to astrologers' analyses of horoscopes, 'destiny' (bhāgya, lit. 'allotted share') is conceived as a form of wealth acquired at birth that can be augmented or diminished as a result of planetary influences and personal choices. The author suggests that, beyond the Sanskrit tradition, the semantics of destiny can be linked to decisionmaking processes and values of achievement that mark the lives of middle- and upper-class families in contemporary India.
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.
Subjects of Luck—Contingency, Morality, and the Anticipation of Everyday Life
Giovanni da Col and Caroline Humphrey
This introduction illustrates the modalities in which different societies imagine the tension between the impersonal and individual- ized aspects of fortune and fate. After briefly discussing the role of contingency, fortune, and gambling in the formation of subjectivities, we outline how different societies confront the moral conundrums arising from fortune's unequal distribution in the world. We highlight how luck orientations presentify the future by the deployment of what we name 'technologies of anticipation'. Luck and fortune can be seen as conceptual techniques for short-circuiting temporal subjectivities by creating a crack in time-a space of 'compossibility'-where events deemed to be fatal and inevitable become negotiable. We conclude with a reflection on dice, randomness, and acts of gambling in which not merely subjectivities but the fate or fortune of larger social aggrega- tions-including the cosmos-is deemed at stake.
The Lottery of Babylon, or, the Logic of Happenstance in Melanesia and Beyond
Are such things as luck, chance, and fortune 'given' or original proper ties of the natural order of things, or are they perverse consequences of some misguided attempt to find out whether they exist or not? Does God play dice, or do the dice merely play God? How is that a sense of supernatural power, which often accompanies 'uncannily' good luck, is discovered, known about, or activated in a society that may not have precise equivalents for our ideas of chance and fortune? This article cites examples drawn from Mesopotamian notions of creation, from the Daribi of interior Papua and the Barok of New Ireland, that explain how this process might unfold. Luck and fortune have to do with any kind of strategy that destroys the opposition, most often through the underdetermination of thought.
Chaucer’s Vocabulary of Mischance
Chaucer uses the full vocabulary for chance and mischance available to him in Middle English, and he deploys that wide vocabulary with a full awareness of its possibilities for subtle differentiations of meaning. This article is especially concerned with his use of privatives, negative prefixes, for these words, and the different senses they carry. In both positive and negative form, they recurrently work to inflect his larger concerns with Fortune (usually personified as an agent) and the mutability of the world.