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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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Genealogies of Misfortune

Genealogies of Misfortune

(p.99) Three Genealogies of Misfortune
Tragic Spirits

Manduhai Buyandelger

University of Chicago Press

The chapter explores connections among postsocialism, neoliberal capitalism, and shamanism. The author traces the multiple contexts behind current misfortunes by revealing the cumulative repercussions of the socioeconomic procedures that have been implemented as modernization projects in Mongolia since the advent of socialism in 1921. These include, during socialism, forced collectivization and semi-sedentarization of nomads, and the neoliberal reforms that were pushed by the international community after socialism. The chaos and corruption of privatization in particular, with the inheritance of risks and liabilities that Verdery has noted, led to economic devastation and inequality. The author argues that while these external processes and projects constitute sources of misfortune, they have also transformed the local world itself into an additional source that generates more calamity. The author uses the concept of genealogy to highlight the ways in which shamanic epistemology explains misfortunes not as individual mistakes or karma, but as intimately linked with the life-events of ancestors in longue durée, as part of larger historical processes. At the same time, in everyday life, shamanic competition together with gossip, mistrust, and the assumption of ill-intention by others tend to undo the Buryats’ efforts to deal with misfortune, and in fact exacerbate it.

Keywords:   Misfortune, Socialism, Neoliberal reforms, Inequality, modernization, Privatization, Mistrust, Suffering, Katherine Verdery, genealogy

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