Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in by Katherine Swancutt

By Katherine Swancutt

Innovation-making is a vintage subject matter in anthropology that unearths how humans fine-tune their ontologies, stay on this planet, and conceive of it as they do. This ethnographic learn is an front into the realm of Buryat Mongol divination, the place a gaggle of cursed shamans adopt the "race opposed to time" to supply leading edge treatments that might enhance their fallen fortunes at an unconventional velocity. Drawing on parallels among social anthropology and chaos concept, the writer supplies an in-depth account of the way Buryat shamans and their thought of fortune function as "strange attractors" who propagate the continuing means of innovation-making. With its view into this long term "cursing warfare" among shamanic factions in a rural Mongolian district, and the comparative findings on cursing in rural China, this publication is a wanted source for somebody with an curiosity within the anthropology of faith, shamanism, witchcraft, and genealogical swap.

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Extra info for Fortune and the Cursed: The Sliding Scale of Time in Mongolian Divination

Example text

The majority of my fieldwork time was spent in the district of Bayandun in Dornod Province, Mongolia, starting with an initial visit in July 1999. Three months passed in which I visited other parts of the country to compare Mongolian divinatory practices. Then in November 1999, I returned to Bayandun and conducted fieldwork there until late June 2000, when I crossed the border into Inner Mongolia, China and carried out fieldwork until September 2000 in the district of Shinekhen Baruun Sum, within the Evenk Nationality Autonomous Banner.

In moments of crisis especially, Buryats tend to focus their attention on the speed at which fortune rises and falls, and they may even revise their ideas about how quickly fortune changes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in divinations and shamanic ceremonies, where the ambitious try to improve their fortunes immediately. Like other Mongol populations, the Buryats in Bayandun, Mongolia, and Shinekhen Baruun Sum, China have the practice of subjecting fortune to causal analysis. They do this regularly in private divination sessions and in shamanic ceremonies held to detect and deflect misfortune and illness.

Thus the rural Buryat approach to deflecting curses resembles the sorcerydeflecting tactics among the Shavante of the central Brazilian plateau, who prefer withholding sorcery accusations to avoid conflicts which might require someone to move out of the village (Rivière 1970, 250– 52). This is not to say that Buryats – or the people in Bayandun – live within an acephalous society. District officials, including the mayor and policeman, as well as the local elders, are considered to be Bayandun’s leaders, while the local clubhouse regularly holds districtwide activities, such as film screenings, social dances, performances given by local talents or travelling troupes, wrestling competitions and talks given by travelling politicians.

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