This paper attempts to rethink the relationship between the practice of shamanism and the political-economic ‘context’ it is held to emerge from in contemporary Mongolia. In the face of an extraordinary ‘revival’ in shamanism, anthropologists have sought explanations for the phenomenon that centre around a concern with how to locate it in relation to the social, economic and political structures alongside which it manifests. Authors tend to produce accounts that either reduce shamanism to an expression of more fundamental material realities, or explore the cosmo-ontological parameters of the practice itself, in turn masking its articulation with other processes in the social field. This point will be illustrated with reference to a novel ethnography of the making of the shamanic gown in Ulaanbaatar. Yet more than this, it will be suggested that a more sustained reflection upon the nature of the shamanic gown, and consideration of new information regarding the processes that contribute to its creation, might provide the means to theorise in a rather different fashion. The shamanic gown and the people and things mobilised in its emergence do not simply collect social and theoretical contexts, but rather flow outward. As such, while being both intimately reactive and irreducible to the adjacent realities, Mongolian shamanism also engages in the making of these very structures. Shamanism and the making of shamanic gowns do not simply emerge from, or deny, contexts; they assemble them.
ChuJ.Y.ChuJ.Y.For use in Heaven or Hell: the circulation of the US dollar among gods, ghosts and ancestorsCosmologies of Credit: Transnational Mobility and the Politics of Destination in China2010Durham (NC)Duke University Press171216
DulamS.CharleuxI.DelaplaceG.HamayonR.PearceS.Two aspects of the state cult in contemporary Mongolia: the sacrifice to the mountains and the cult of the standardsRepresenting Power In Modern Inner Asia: Conventions Alternatives and Oppositions2010Bellingham (WA)Western Washington University3742
HolbraadS.M.HenareA.HolbraadM.WastellS.The power of powder: multiplicity and motion in the divinatory cosmology of Cuban Ifá (or mana, again)Thinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically2007LondonUniversity College London Press189225
PedersenM.A.HenareA.HolbraadM.WastellS.Talismans of thought: shamanistic ontologies and extended cognition in northern MongoliaThinking Through Things: Theorising Artefacts Ethnographically2007LondonUniversity College London Press141166
ShimamuraI.Power, Morality and Ethics: An Ethnographic Report on the ‘Pandemic’ of Shamanism in Contemporary Mongolia. Lent Term Research Seminar, Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, University of Cambridge2012
WillerslevR.PedersenM.A.OttoT.BubandtN.Proportional holism: joking the cosmos into the right shape in north AsiaExperiments in Holism: Theory and Practice in Contemporary Anthropology2010OxfordWilley-Blackwell262278
Willerslev and Pedersen (2010) have argued that joking with spirits in North Asia partly serves momentarily to place spirits and humans on the same plane without pretending they are part of the same whole.