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Charles Stafford

Drawing primarily on ethnographic material from Taiwan, this article focuses on misfortune and, more especially, on the ques- tion of whether people are felt to deserve what happens to them-be it bad or good. I examine the cases of several people who have suffered misfortune in life, exploring ways in which they might actively try to make good things happen as a way of convincing others, and indeed themselves, that they are, after all, good. In considering these cases, I discuss three intersecting accounts of fate that are widely held by ordi- nary people in Taiwan and China: a cosmological one, a spirit-oriented one, and a social one.

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The Dangers of Excess

Accumulating and Dispersing Fortune in Mongolia

Rebecca Empson

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.

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Our Present Misfortune

Games and the Post-Bureaucratic Colonization of Contingency

Thomas M. Malaby

Anthropology is turning toward a new engagement with a central question of Weber: how do people come to understand the distribution of fortune in the world? Our discipline's recent examination of the uses of the past prompts us to ask how stances toward the future are both the product of cultural logics and the target of institutional interests. In this article, I trace the engagement with contingency in anthropology and social thought, and then compare the nonchalant stance toward the future found in Greek society with the different disposition of individual gaming mastery in the digital domain, such as in Second Life, but also in the longest-running Greek state-sponsored game: Pro-Po. These examples illustrate how games are increasingly the sites for institutional efforts both to appropriate creativity and to generate distinctive subjectivities.

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Toward a Critical and Comparative Anthropology of Disability

Absent Presence and Exemplary Personhood

Joshua Reno, Kaitlyn Hart, Amy Mendelson, and Felicia Molzon

anyone who worries about being different, aging, or suffering misfortune, which is to say practically everyone. In critical disability studies, the task is not only to empower people with disabilities, but to challenge (or ‘crip’) existing systems of

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Julián Antonio Moraga Riquelme, Leslie E. Sponsel, Katrien Pype, Diana Riboli, Ellen Lewin, Marina Pignatelli, Katherine Swancutt, Alejandra Carreño Calderón, Anastasios Panagiotopoulos, Sergio González Varela, Eugenia Roussou, Juan Javier Rivera Andía, Miho Ishii, Markus Balkenhol, and Marcelo González Gálvez

non-humans would come about through the encantos (enchantments) that allow good luck or misfortune; in the latter, there would be a relationship of retribution that connects people and divinities through rites. Ventura i Oller, through his

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Life in the ant trails

Cocaine and caustic circuits in Bissau

Henrik Vigh

Abstract

This article looks ethnographically at the cocaine trade in and through Bissau, Guinea-Bissau. It clarifies some of the less obvious aspects of illegal cross-border trade and ties the minor flow of drugs, often trafficked by the desperate and disenfranchised, to larger global dynamics. While international media and commentators alike frequently depict transnational organized crime as a pathogen attacking the healthy global order, a closer look at the Bissau cocaine trade clarifies that the trade is neither external nor parasitical but integral to it. The trade's grasp of Bissau is anchored in enduring critical circumstance, stretching from the social to the political, and displays several ironic feedback loops and interdependencies linking misfortune in time and space. The article thus shows how negative conditions may travel and circulate in a manner that ramifies vulnerability across economic and political borders.

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A. James McAdams

The future political culture of eastern Germany and, with it, the relationship

between unified Germany’s once divided populations will

depend heavily upon how all Germans respond to a distinctive fact

about the east. The region experienced not one but, counting the

German Democratic Republic (GDR), two separate eras of dictatorship.

This fact can be, and has been, understood in two different

ways, with significantly different implications in each case. The first

is the perspective of the victim. According to this view, the citizens of

the GDR uniquely had to shoulder the burden of having been born,

in effect, “in the wrong place.” Not only did they endure greater

hardships than their western counterparts, such as the rebuilding of

Germany after World War II, but they suffered by themselves

through the debilitating consequences of Soviet occupation and their

inability, until 1990, to act upon the right to “free self-determination”

(to quote the original preamble of the Basic Law). As a result, according

to this argument, easterners were owed special treatment after

unification because of their distinctive misfortunes.

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Rory J. Conces

One of the problems that has dominated Western political thought for the past four hundred years is the tension within the body politic between the ‘will of the collective’, as it is expressed by those vested with authority and power, and the ‘will of the individual’. Among political theorists who have examined this problem, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) viewed this potentially ruinous tension in radically different ways. In his famous work Leviathan (1651), Hobbes presents the problem of how we are to socially conduct ourselves as a society, an apparent dilemma whose horns are none other than anarchy and servile absolutism. Either we submit to the constraints imposed upon us by government, or we accept the dire consequences of his infamous state of nature. Since he was well acquainted with the strife of war-torn seventeenth-century Europe (including the Thirty Years War [1618-48] in Central Europe, the Scottish Revolt [1638-40], and the First Civil War [1642-46] as well as the Second Civil War [1648] in England), the choice was an easy one for Hobbes. He leaves no doubt that the dissolution of government is the single worst misfortune that could beset man, resulting in an anarchic condition in which ‘the life of man, [is] solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short’.1 It is therefore to man’s advantage to leave this state by accepting absolute sovereignty as the only rational alternative.

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A Tale of Three Candides

Sfar, Meyran and Delcourt Recount Voltaire

Matthew Screech

Since the millennium, bande dessinée artists have retold Voltaire's Candide three times. The first Candide is by Joann Sfar, the second by Philippe Meyran, and the third, by Gorian Delpâture, Michel Dufranne and Vujadin Radovanovic, is being published by Delcourt. This article begins with a brief presentation of the work. Taking our three Candides in chronological order, I then examine how Sfar, Meyran and the Delcourt version retell the story. Specific excerpts are studied, with emphasis on how far they convey Voltaire's irony. We shall see how Sfar finds new ways to infuse Candide with irony. Analogies with medieval illuminations intimate that the great iconoclast is being sanctified. Moreover, Sfar's grotesque artwork contrasts with Voltaire's elegant prose. Thus, Sfar adds a visual dimension to Voltaire's incongruities between what is said and what is meant. Sfar also jokes about ideas raised by Voltaire including philosophical optimism, anti-Semitism and Utopianism. Meyran depicts the hero's sequence of misfortunes with faux naïf caricature. Thus, he makes visible an incongruity between narrative developments and the manner of their recounting. Yet Meyran usually weakens (or eliminates) irony, while playing down philosophical and polemical issues. The Delcourt version employs elegant, technically accomplished artwork. The narrative is not without irony although engagement is intermittent. This work places emphasis on recounting a fast-moving adventure rather than elaborating upon the story's philosophical underpinnings.

Open access

Stephan Feuchtwang

beyond life, raising the prospect of misfortune, ill health, death, and what is beyond death. The stocks of images in divination refer by suggestion and through their interpretation to this encompassing universe. As they do this, it may be said that they