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Beneficial Bonds

Luck and the Lived Experience of Relatedness in Contemporary Japan

Inge Daniels

This article explores the Japanese notion of luck as a relational mode of action that encapsulates a complex understanding about self, society, and cosmos. Drawing on ethnographic data gathered in 30 urban homes in the Kansai region (Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara) in 2003, I aim to demonstrate how, by engaging in a range of material practices, people create beneficial connections with spirits, people, and places to protect the home from malevolent influences and to ensure the happiness and well-being of its occupants. It will be argued that this protective system can be maintained only through both the relentless 'labor of luck' performed by married women as 'moral persons' and the persistent circulation of luck between religious institutions, commercial businesses, and homes.

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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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The Death Throes of Sacrificed Chicken

Triggering Critical Reflexive Stances on Ritual Action in Togo

Marie Daugey

This article aims to shed light on a divination episode, which most blood sacrifices begin with in many West African societies, by examining how this ritual practice is carried out among the Kabye of northern Togo and by analyzing it in relation to

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Assessing Ritual Experience in Contemporary Spiritualities

The Practice of ‘sharing’ in a New Age Variant of Umbanda

Viola Teisenhoffer

. 2015 . “ Produire un soi spirituel: Pratiques et expériences rituelles dans l’umbanda du Temple Guaracy de Paris ” [The making of a spiritual self: Ritual practices and experiences in the Temple Guaracy of Paris]. PhD diss. , Université Paris Nanterre .

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Images of Transgression

Teyyam in Malabar

Dinesan Vadakkiniyil

This article focuses on Muttappan and the practice of teyyam in Kerala, South India. The growing power and increasing presence of this ritual practice and its transition from traditional sacred spaces into modern public spheres, including cyberspace, are analyzed in order to understand its inner dynamics and potentialities. Engaged with the quotidian aspects of human existence, the male divinity Muttappan-teyyam is a being of the moment who overcomes any bounding or hierarchizing force in his path. I argue that Muttappan's modernity has a decentering and destabilizing fluidity that appeals to all social classes. The ritual practice has put the arts and the state at odds, with the latter co-opting it to serve the state's purposes through tourism and spectacles that encourage national solidarity.

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Tatiana Bulgakova

This article discusses the sociological hierarchies among Nanay shamans. The shamans evaluate one another and the community also evaluates them, ranking them in myriad informal ways in terms of effectiveness with spirits and healing power. These rankings come about through discursive activities associated with recounting shamanic healing and other ritual practices. While shamans try to maintain close communicative and social relationships with their community, they actively avoid direct interaction with one another as part of a conflict avoidance strategy.

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Emotions and Authority in Religious Organisations

The Case of a New Prayer Group in Contemporary Transcarpathia

Agnieszka Halemba

This article reflects on the place of emotionally arousing ex- periences within religious organisations. Using data obtained through participant observation and interviews, it outlines a research approach for investigations of the interrelationships between particular features of religious practices. Those features have been pointed out in many previous anthropo- logical and sociological works, but few works attempted to analyse connections and interdependencies between con- crete features of religious traditions. The present article takes inspiration from contemporary 'modes of religiosity' theory to explore further the relationships between highly emotion- ally arousing religious experiences and centralised religious authority. Going beyond Whitehouse's theory, it is argued that centralised religious organisations can influence the so- cial features of a religious movement through management of emotionality in ritual practice.

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The Power of Music

Issues of Agency and Social Practice

Norman Long

This article aims to contribute to the increasingly rich body of ethnographic and sociological studies that focus on processes of musical practice. After a brief introduction to the significance of music in social life, it outlines the advantages of adopting an actor-oriented analysis that gives close attention to issues of agency and emergent socio-cultural forms. This is followed by a brief encounter with the dynamics of musical performance as perceived by members of the Guarneri Quartet, after which two contrasting musical scenarios are analyzed in depth. The first focuses on music and ritual practices in the Peruvian Andes, and the second on the English musical renaissance of the early twentieth century. The article closes with a brief comment on the need to examine in depth the social components of musical composition and performance.

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Helene Scheck

This essay examines the memorial practices at the tenth-century Saxon community of canonesses at St. Servatius, Quedlinburg, to consider what is gained—and what lost—in the remembrance of key figures of the Ottonian dynasty. A memorial foundation established by Queen Mathilda of Saxony in honor of her husband, King Henry I, this community provides a particularly effective way to explore the relationship between memory, gender, and power in Ottonian culture, since the architecture, ritual practices, institutional rules, daily and intellectual life of the inmates, and literary works possibly produced by them function together as a complex memorializing machine. Reading this community's contributions to the constitution of dynastic memory through Michel Foucault's notion of power, the essay considers the effects of memorializing practices on women in Saxony at the time, who, I argue, never come to be fully present and therefore leave their successors, women writers to come, a legacy of loss.

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What If We Don't Know Our Clan?

The City as New Ritual Form in Buriatiia

Justine Buck Quijada

“Traditionally” Buriat shamanism is clan-based. Ritual practice embedded kinship relations within a sacred geography, linking the living and the dead through a relationship to the landscape, reaffirmed at yearly tailgan ceremonies. In Buriatiia, Soviet modernization transformed the Buriat relationship to the land, and with it, the conditions of shamanic practice. As a result, many urban Buriats either do not know their clan affiliation, or no longer hold clan ceremonies. In response, two urban shaman's organizations have begun to hold tailgans on behalf of the residents of the city. The new ritual form relieves anxiety at the loss of tradition and underscores that loss. However, by redefining the ritual community around the city instead of the clan, the ritual community becomes multiethnic.