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This article focuses on an incident involving a series of evictions experienced by a group of Makrani laborers who made their living by earning daily wages at the Hyderabad railway station in early twentieth century Sindh. In this piece I critically analyze two imperial projects: first, the construction of the Indian railways and second, the promotion of “free” wage labor by the colonial regime in the aftermath of the abolition of slavery. By critically interrogating the promises of both “free labor” and “technological progress” this article argues that survival in the Sindhi countryside depended on a group’s ability to assert legible claims to both belonging and to land. Through an in-depth examination of the conflicting land claims, bureaucratic exchanges, and discourses around wage work that these evictions provoked, this paper reflects on the enduring entanglements of race, labor, technology, and empire in this region of British India.

In: Journal of Sindhi Studies
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Abstract

In this paper, I examine the drinking game of lot-drawing as a prophetic device in the novel The Dream of the Red Chamber (Honglou meng 紅樓夢) and a pastiche of it called Shanghai dust (Haishang chentian ying 海上塵天影). In both works, the outcome of the drinking game proves to be prophetic signs that reveal the personalities and foretell the future fates of the participating players. Unlike the other portents featuring in the novels, which tend to elude the characters’ understanding, the result of the game immediately evokes strong ominous feelings in the protagonists, leading us to ponder on the deep significance of the drinking game in the structure of the whole story.

In my analysis, I show that the drinking game evokes a sense of the supernatural in the players for a reason: the drinking game resembles the qian divination (done with oracle sticks) that remains ubiquitous in Chinese communities today. While games and divination are recognized as separate and completely different cultural practices, the easy transition from game to oracle, from silliness to seriousness achieves a high degree of artistic complexity in Honglou meng.

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In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
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In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
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From the ancient practice, implied by many textual sources although never formally prescribed, of identifying the twelve horoscopic places (the δωδεκάτροπος dōdekatropos) with the zodiacal signs, recent scholarship has often concluded that such identification constituted a tenet of ancient astrology even at a conceptual level. On the basis of a close reading of Vettius Valens’ Anthologies, supported by other ancient sources, this paper argues that while the places, like other elements of horoscopic practice, were often provisionally approximated by sign position alone, calculation of places by degree, with boundaries differing from those of the zodiacal signs, was consistently upheld in principle as more accurate and useful. Specifically, Valens’ preference appears to have been for places calculated from the quadrants formed by the intersections of horizon and meridian, a method also occasionally used in the Anthologies for defining planetary configurations and for annual transmission (παράδοσις paradosis). In several cases, such methods are explicitly employed even for horoscopes presented in a simple, signs-only format.

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In: International Journal of Divination and Prognostication
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In: Endowment Studies

Abstract

The article investigates the emergence and transformation of humanitarian associations in Egypt from the late 19th to the mid-20th century. It argues that on the one hand these associations were new institutions echoing the foundation of new charitable organisations worldwide and in Egypt. The colonial domination of Egypt and its refusal by the Egyptians thereby played a prominent role. On the other hand, the humanitarian associations have to be seen in the continuity of long-established practices and discourses of charity, performed in particular by religious endowments (awqāf). Based on the example of the Egyptian Red Crescent, which is explored through a wide range of un explorer Egyptian, British and Swiss archives as well as a broad historiography in European and Arabic languages, this article emphasises the interconnections between international, regional, national and local institutions in Egypt in the field of philanthropy.

In: Endowment Studies
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Abstract

At the end of the First World War, a profoundly transformed Middle East faced massive population displacements and health crises, which presented crucial challenges for humanitarian actors. North American philanthropy and charity played a decisive role in this context. Among the organisations involved, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (cnewa) is not well known. It was established by American Catholics to help Eastern Christians – especially Greek Catholics – and to thwart the influence of Protestantism in the region, mainly by supporting local Churches and missions in their humanitarian and welfare work. cnewa was quickly placed under the supervision of the US episcopate and the Vatican, partly transforming its operations and purposes. Its activity became closely involved with the Eastern policy of the Holy See, which primarily focused on the “return” of Orthodox Christians to the Roman Church. This article, at the crossroads of the history of mission and humanitarian aid, examines the early developments of cnewa and highlights how the Catholic Church dealt with the emergence of modern humanitarian aid in the mid-twentieth century.

In: Endowment Studies
In: Endowment Studies
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In: Endowment Studies

Abstract

From the fourth century ce, Christians were encouraged to redeem their faults by caring for the poor. The most striking manifestation of this phenomenon was the building by the Church of more or less specialised hospices throughout the Early Byzantine Empire (4th to 7th century ce) to accommodate those who depended on charity for their survival. These establishments are mentioned by ancient texts and lapidary inscriptions. About nine such facilities, ptocheion for the needy, xenodocheion for foreigners and travelers, diakonia where food was distributed and other types of charitable hospices can be listed in the ancient province of Arabia (Southern Syria, Northern Jordan). The available data, whether textual or archaeological since some remains are observable on the field, are presented in this paper and compared to those collected elsewhere in the Near East.

In: Endowment Studies