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Tragic SpiritsShamanism, Memory, and Gender in Contemporary Mongolia$
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Manduhai Buyandelger

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226086552

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226013091.001.0001

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The Return of the Suppressed

The Return of the Suppressed

(p.1) Introduction The Return of the Suppressed
Tragic Spirits

Manduhai Buyandelger

University of Chicago Press

This chapter lays out the context behind the shamanism that has proliferated in Mongolia in the aftermath of the collapse of socialism. It discusses existing assumptions behind shamanism, what constitutes shamanism in postsocialist Mongolia, and its multiple meanings in the context of Buryats’ relationship with the state. The supernatural and material are interconnected, but these connections are insecure and volatile, mirroring the chaotic political and economic conditions of a weak postsocialist state.The author argues that while Buryat shamans and their clients strive to engage in capitalism and gain economic resources, shamanic practices cause them to gain history instead. Thus this book adds to the study of different life-worlds beyond the universalization of capital, in Dipesh Chakrabarty’s words. Shamanism starkly shows the limits of capitalism; even the people who actively seek to be a part of capitalism end up creating a world alternative to it. This process also shows the dialectical, mutually-constitutive, but conflicting and colliding nature of different life-worlds, despite the fact that shamanism has often been modernity’s disowned creation. In this chapter, the author also introduces her fieldwork, which revealed shamanic competition and rivalry, clients’ suspicions, and the connections between gender, space, and power.

Keywords:   Dipesh Chakrabarty, Supernatural, Suspicion, Collapse of socialism, Fieldwork, Meaning, Competition, Rivalry, State, capitalism

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