The Ontological Spiral: Virtuosity And Transparency In Mongolian Games

in Inner Asia
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Abstract

Bodily affects, in Viveiros de Castro’s sense of the term, are not just physical characteristics, such as the comportment, mannerisms or tastes consistently ascribed to a given subject. They are also ‘forces’, ‘energies’ or ‘talents’ which are taught, acquired and refined over time. This article argues that virtuosity and fortune are bodily affects which Mongols hold to varying degrees. Through the Mongolian game called ‘The Stag’, the article shows how players refine their virtuosity affect while receiving sudden influxes of fortune. Virtuosi and novice game players exchange perspectives in the pedagogy of play, travelling along an ‘ontological spiral’ of knowledge which renders the winning moves transparent.

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