'Vital energy' is a central idea in the economies of Panama and Colombia. Known as 'strength' or 'force', and assembled from the environment, this current connects all activities in the local economies and establishes relationships, from kin to strangers. Humans compose vital energy, but its sources are limited, and it is expended in use. Its availability is a gift from God and part of the unpredictable fortune that faces everyone. This economy exhibits a contrast between a social current and a market currency. It offers a materialist perspective, provides a critique of standard economics, suggests that sharing rather than reciprocity or rational choice is the 'fundamental' economic practice, and shows how an economy may be a kind of ritual legitimated by a belief in divine power that is displayed through personal fortune.
The Current of Relations
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that are mobile. Quite simply, life is considered more than a vital energy that must distinguish itself from materiality. Humans and nonhumans (things) can be transformed and set on divergent trajectories by variously temporized forces such as
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Colombia, the author begins his account of economics with a brief exploration of the divine. In these ethnographic settings, economic activity is understood as securing, transforming and remaking ‘la fuerza’, a concept translated as ‘vital energy
almanacs of the circuits of vital energy ( qi ) that mark constant movement, cyclical and transgressive, and are manifest in the forms of Earth, solid and fluid, and in the bodies of Heaven, bright and stellar. According to the revered ritual manual, Li Ji
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metabolism. In particular, the Congolese refugees Apter studied recognized food as a source of vital energy and survival, yet also as the basis from which waste and human excrement are produced. Such dualities of cosmological symbolism meant that those
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has been endowed by God with a certain force, capable of strengthening the vital energy of the strongest being of all creation: man … the only kind of blessing, is, to the Bantu, to possess the greatest vital force’ (Tempels 1959: 30 , 32). Or, Peter
help maintain “vital energy” in a “cosmic milieu” that had a depressing influence on the physiological forces of Europeans. 17 Hygienists debated the finer points of colonial diet such as the advisable amount of meat to consume and whether to drink
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crisis of cultural authority: an apotheosis of simplicity, a reassertion of moral will, an exaltation of vital energy, a revaluation of visionary experience” (1981: 179). Digby’s work certainly evidences Lear’s argument, particularly in its direct