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The Art of Capture

Hidden Jokes and the Reinvention of Animistic Ontologies in Southwest China

Katherine Swancutt

Anthropology has, among its many accomplishments, become a ‘hyper-reflexive’ discipline that is mastered by anthropologists and their fieldwork friends. Today’s China offers an especially revealing lens onto anthropological reflexivity as it reintroduces animism among ethnic minorities and mobilizes a cosmological-cum-ecological ethos, replete with soul-searching and planet-saving behaviors. This article presents ethnography on the Nuosu of Southwest China, who use the ‘art of capture’ to reinvent local animistic ideas and the Chinese ‘ideology of animism’. In dialogue with a Nuosu ethnologist, rural Nuosu villagers, and a Nuosu anthropologist, I propose that ‘hidden’ knowledge and jokes underpin the expositions of native scholars, who interlace their academic work with local rituals. In this way, Nuosu academics, foreign anthropologists, and villagers all partake in the reinvention of Nuosu animism.

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The Wrath of the Forgotten

Shamanic Sickness, Spirit Embodiment, and Fragmentary Trancescape in Contemporary Buriat Shamanism

Zeljko Jokic

During fieldwork on a contemporary revival of shamanism in Buriatiia in the summer of 2005, I was initially puzzled by what I had witnessed. The spirits that were embodied by the shamans were interacting with the audience. Afterward, the shamans did not remember what had occurred while they were in trance. To me, it resembled what has been described as spirit-mediumship performance. While discussing this with shamans, their initial response was that Buriat shamanism is real shamanism, insisting that authentic trance is unconscious, while at the same time dismissing other forms as fake. Later, however, some quietly admitted that Buriat shamans used to be able to remember their ecstatic journeys, and eventually they will be able to regain this ability. I argue that the post-trance amnesia among the contemporary Buriat neo-shamans is the result of the disruption caused by the Soviet anti-religious legacy, which inhibited Buriats to progress to higher degrees of initiation.

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Shamanic Battleground

Magic, Sorcery, and Warrior Shamanism in Venezuela

Željko Jokić

In the area of the Upper Orinoco River in Venezuela, Yanomami shapori (shamans) engage in hostile acts against their colleagues and people (especially children) living in distant villages in order to inflict misery and death. These combative magical practices are primarily motivated by retribution for past assaults of a similar kind. While in most cases the shapori perform these activities intentionally, this article argues that the malevolent non-human acts are also driven by the cannibalistic nature of hekura spirits, which demand human souls. In this way, although shapori intentionally engage in bellicose activities, they must sometimes kill in order to appease the ancestral spirits and thus spare the lives of their own kin. This article focuses on the dark side of Yanomami shamanistic practices in order to counterbalance tendencies that emphasize the more positive, therapeutic aspects of shamanism, namely, its socially integrative roles.

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Rane Willerslev

How do we take indigenous animism seriously in the sense proposed by Viveiros de Castro? In this article, I pose this challenge to all the major theories of animism, stretching from Tylor and Durkheim, over Lévi-Strauss to Ingold. I then go on to draw a comparison between Žižek's depiction of the cynical milieu of advanced capitalism in which ideology as “false consciousness” has lost force and the Siberian Yukaghirs for whom ridiculing the spirits is integral to their game of hunting. Both know that, in their activity, they are following an illusion, but still they go along with it; both are ironically self-conscious about not taking the ruling ethos at face value. This makes me suggest an alternative: perhaps it is time for anthropology not to take indigenous animism too seriously.

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Richard Poole, Anne Stevenson, Barry Cole and Linda Kemp

The Three Wise Monkeys RICHARD POOLE

Who’s Joking with the Photographer? ANNE STEVENSON

Samuel Locke of Boston BARRY COLE

Enchantment of Mina Loy LINDA KEMP

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Portrait

Eileen Barker

Linda Woodhead, James T. Richardson, Martyn Percy, Catherine Wessinger and Eileen Barker

I wish I had been present at the 1993 annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (SSSR) when Professor Eileen Barker delivered her subversive presidential address: “The Scientific Study of Religion? You Must Be Joking!”1 I imagine that not all audience members were delighted. The address lives up to its billing, driving a cart and horses through pervasive positivistic assumptions in the study of religion and ushering in a very different approach. I will not pretend that it changed my life the first time I read it, but I have gone back to it time and again, and it continues to illuminate and inspire.

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Bête et méchant

Politics, Editorial Cartoons and Bande dessinée in the French Satirical Newspaper Charlie hebdo

Jane Weston

The weekly French satirical newspaper, Charlie hebdo, which originally ran from 1969 to 1982, pending a revival in 1992, distinguishes itself through its bête et méchant ['stupid and nasty'] humorous heritage, defined in its parent publication, Hara-Kiri, as the freedom to make jokes on potentially any subject, however taboo. Whilst this satirical ethos predominated in Charlie hebdo up to 1982, its enduring place in the publication has become more ambiguous since 1992, with the abrupt sacking of Siné in July 2008 seemingly belying its vigorous defence of provocative humour in the context of the 2006 Danish caricature affair. An important underlying continuity nonetheless remains in Charlie hebdo and transcends the bête et méchant project: that of negotiating a space for satirical expression that has continuously engaged with both elements of bande dessinée and the rich French tradition of polemical editorial cartooning and caricature.

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Chloe Krystyna Garcia and Ayesha Vemuri

Sexual violence continues to be normalized in modern society through heterosexist jokes and problematic portrayals of female sexuality. A number of young female activists use YouTube as a technology of nonviolence to share their thoughts about rape culture and how it can be transformed. We performed a thematic analysis of 10 videos produced by young women and girls to investigate what they identify as rape culture and how they use videos to communicate their messages. We argue that they offer meaningful insight into the institutions that contribute to the normalization of sexual violence, including schools and universities, the media, and legal and political systems. We believe that stakeholders interested in dismantling rape culture can use these videos to educate themselves and others about the concerns voiced by women and girls, who are, arguably, the population most affected by sexual violence.

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Buy or barter?

Illegal yet licit purchases of work in contemporary Sweden

Lotta Björklund Larsen

This article explores the tensions between buying and bartering a ser vice in contemporary Sweden by analyzing the acceptable purchase of svart arbete -informal exchanges of work. It is a commonplace phenomenon, but also widely debated, as it is seen as detrimental to welfare society, eroding taxpaying morals and solidarity with fellow citizens. Settling the svart deal with money makes the links to market and state domains more pertinent. Even cash-settled deals are therefore often referred to as barters to create a reverse disentanglement, away from the formal market and moved closer to the realm of social exchanges. The informants express a verbal creativity in a joking manner. Exploring synonyms and metaphors reveals the informality, but the talk also shows that, as exchanges, they are part of everyday life. The article thus describes how illegal yet licit exchanges of work are articulated.

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Dafna Lemish and Shiri Reznik

This study explores gender differences in the roles of humor in the lives of Israeli children. Thirty-four Jewish middle-class Israeli children, sixteen girls and eighteen boys, aged between eight to ten years, were interviewed in focus groups in which they discussed a variety of humorous video segments, jokes, and everyday humor. The analysis suggests that humor in interaction is a highly gendered process in this age group and is employed differently by boys and girls to perform their gendered identities. Girls engaged much less in sexist and aggressive humor and clearly used it to maintain their separateness from boys and younger children. We conclude that humor provides us with another avenue through which to unveil the complicated processes of gender construction in pre-adolescent childhood, while demonstrating at the same time the ambivalence and complexity involved in these processes.