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Issue 14.4, November 1999


Essay Excerpt

From "The Maoist Shaman and the Madman: Ritual Bricolage, Failed Ritual, and Failed Ritual Theory," Emily Chao

On a cool summer afternoon, a shaman arrived at a dusty mud-brick Naxi village to cure a resident who had gone mad. During the ritual that followed, the shaman called on Chairman Mao, Zhou Enlai, and Deng Xiaoping to assist her in driving out demons while she instructed the madman to brace up, learn from Lei Feng, and work for the greater good of his country. The shaman chanted, "The mad- man is one of the wretched masses. Arise if you don't want to be enslaved! Let our flesh and blood build the next Great Wall." The shaman incorporated politi- cal slogans and phrases from the Chinese national anthem into her ritual incan- tations. She wore a shoulder bag affixed with a Red Guard armband and marched around the madman's courtyard as if she were going into battle. The shaman bowed to the gods and burned incense, but she also invoked the "gods" and the experiences of the Chinese revolution—all in an attempt to save the madman.