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January 2022

Korean shamans and the spirits of capitalism

Journal/Book: Amer Anthropol. 1996; 98: 4350 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 640, Arlington, VA 22203. Amer Anthropological Assoc. 512.

Abstract: Recent studies have taught us that ''religion'' is not a fixed category but an instrument of popular consciousness. While the studies' subjects have often been victims of colonialism and capitalist exploitation, cultural production through magical means need not be restricted to a society's most oppressed elements. Counter to the expectations of Max Weber, for whom capitalism marched to the drumbeat of ''rationalization,'' many of the clients who patronize the shaman shrines of Seoul, Republic of Korea, are engaged in high-risk petty-capitalist enterprises. Shamans, clients, and spirits address the seemingly arbitrary fluctuations of good and bad fortune that can bring sudden wealth or ruin, and offer wry commentary upon what their world has become.

Note: Article L Kendall, Amer Museum Nat Hist, Dept Anthropol, Asian Ethnog Collect, New York, NY 10024 USA

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