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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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Outsmarting the Nation, Together

Subversive Virtual Fraternity in the Israeli Men's Magazine Blazer

Steven Fraiberg and Danny Kaplan

This article examines the reconstruction of a virtual Israeli male fraternity in Israel's only men's lifestyle magazine, Blazer. Modeled after the global 'new lad' magazine format, the Blazer text engages its readers by forging a homosocial joking relationship. Focusing on a satire dedicated to Israel's Independence Day, this study delineates a series of parodic discursive practices employed by the narrators to deconstruct and appropriate traditional Zionist myths on which Israel was founded. The Blazer text thus mobilizes a key cultural trope known as the anti-freier frame (to avoid being a 'sucker'), implemented as a set of manipulations to outsmart the system. The Blazer text rearticulates the relationship between self and society based on a local version of the 'yuppie' value system. We argue that while this frame appears to reject collectivist values, it serves as a critical lens for connecting yuppie masculinity with its Sabra predecessor, thereby consolidating a modified form of national solidarity.

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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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Sarah Michelle Stohlman, Alice Szczepaniková, Ewa Ignaczak, Oane Visser, Peter Scholliers, Sjaak van der Geest, Hans Vermeulen, Tomasz Płonka, Jaap TImmer and Oscar Salemink

Sarah Ahmed, Claudia Castañeda, Anne-Marie Fortier, and Mimi Sheller (eds.), Uprootings/regroundings: questions of home and migration

Susanne Binder and Jelena Tošič (eds.), Refugee studies and politics: human dimensions and research perspectives, and Philomena Essed, Georg Frerks, and Joke Schrijvers (eds.), Refugees and the transformation of societies: agency, policies, ethics and politics

Paul John Eakin (ed.), The ethics of life writing

Chris Hann and the ‘Property Relations’ group, The postsocialist agrarian question: property relations and the rural condition

Anne J. Kershen (ed.), Food in the migrant experience

Michael Lambek and Paul Antze (eds.), Illness and irony: on the ambiguity of suffering in culture

Cristóbal Mendoza, Labour immigration in Southern Europe: African employment in Iberian labour markets

Thomas Carl Patterson, Marx’s ghost: conversations with archaeologists

Adam Reed, Papua New Guinea’s last place: experiences of constraint in a postcolonial prison

Shinji Yamashita and J. S. Eades (eds.), Globalization in Southeast Asia: local, national and transnational perspectives

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Roger F. Cook

In the now almost fifteen years since the rush to German unity, East Germany's remembering of its lost cultural objects and social practices has already established a rich history of its own. The first product to become a prominent symbol of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was the Trabant (Trabi). An unattractive, inefficient, obnoxiously loud car manufactured in the GDR, it went overnight from being an object for which many East Germans waited expectantly for several years to be able to purchase to an antiquated, undesired relic. The brunt of some of the first Ossie jokes, it also quickly became a symbol for East German resistance to an arrogant West German dismissal of all that was the GDR.

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Introduction

Anthropological Knowledge Making, the Reflexive Feedback Loop, and Conceptualizations of the Soul

Katherine Swancutt and Mireille Mazard

In this introduction, we propose a new approach to anthropological knowledge making that would observe the ‘hyper-reflexive’ quality of ethnographic exchanges. We show that anthropological ideas infiltrate themselves into the discourse of native thinkers, even as native ideas regenerate anthropological theory. Our starting point is ‘animism’, a key concept of anthropological theory. We suggest that anthropologists and their interlocutors jointly reinvent animistic ideas through a process we describe as the ‘reflexive feedback loop’, in which abstract ideas about practice and belief are appropriated and recirculated by research participants. By way of conclusion, we reflect on how anthropologists and their collaborators ‘animate’ soul concepts through diverse forms of agency such as metamorphosis, doubling, autobiographical narrative, hidden jokes, and even technological animism.