Magic tricks, midnight grave outings, and transforming trees: performance and agency in Taiwanese religion

Submitted by James Miller on Wed, 05/14/2014 - 16:55
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TitleMagic tricks, midnight grave outings, and transforming trees: performance and agency in Taiwanese religion
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2005
AuthorsMoskowitz, M. L.
JournalJournal of ritual studies
Volume19
Pagination19 - 30
Date Published2005
ISBN Number0890-1112, 0890-1112
KeywordsAgency, Anthropology, Anthropology of religion, Asian Studies, Daoism, Performance, Religious behaviour, Religious beliefs, Religious Studies, Ritual, Taiwan
Abstract

This article examines the rise and fall of a Daoist master in southern Taiwan. It is divided into three sections: 1) an account of a day and a night spent with the Daoist Master, 2) follow-up interviews with one of his patrons in which she becomes disillusioned with the master, and 3) an analysis of ritual as moral fantasy and individual agency. In the third section I address the factors that made the religious master successful and the events that eventually led to his downfall. I also argue that the performative nature of religious ritual adds to the worshipper's sense of individual agency, thus placing her or him in a moral fantasy in which that person becomes the hero of a created drama. This, I suggest, emphasizes some of the more individualistic elements of Chinese religious belief and practice that have not fully been explored (1). Reprinted by permission of the Journal of Ritual Studies

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