Friday, December 26, 2008

Abstract of the Week!

Anthropological Quarterly:
Mahjong Agonistics and the Political Public in Taiwan: Fate, Mimesis, and the Martial Imaginary

In this article I examine high-stakes mahjong in Taiwan as a ritual mode of male agency fraught with political significance. I show how men divine fate by conjuring estranged game forces, while disavowing the "abeyance of agency" by deploying strategy and style to control fate's fickle flip-side—luck. Through "combat" with luck, men reanimate an officially orchestrated male totality, or martial imaginary, that reproduces idealized masculine values and patterns of citizenship. By further situating mahjong within a socially and politically encompassing play-ritual framework, I argue that mahjong mimesis generalizes a pathos of "sympathetic agonism" that blurs gender boundaries and that preserves a space for a plural democratic agôn.
Update: You know, "male totality" and "sympathetic agonism" and all that garbage aside, there is some truth here. Any halfway decent backgammon player (to choose a different but similar game) knows that a big part of the thing is managing luck, aka probability. Mahjong mimesis forever!

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