Samuele Poletti is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh (UK). His doctoral research focuses on the perception(s) of death in the Sinja Valley of Jumla District (Western Nepal), and how this may shed light upon the ways in which people make sense of existence. Besides resorting to the classic instrument of academic writing, he is interested in the possibilities that photography may offer as a complementary means to the ethnographic description, not least by virtue of a communicative immediacy not always possible in the written text.
Nepali astrological divination can be seen as a form sense-making which, in providing access to the ‘hidden motifs’ attained to determine life events, mitigates the irreducibility of being-in- the-world by providing existential narratives. Conveying hope to act upon what is initially approached as a hopeless fate, astrological knowledge forwards the perception that troubling events, apparently out of control, are also liable to be acted upon. This reveals a permanent tension between ‘fatalism’ and ‘freedom’ that challenges rendering Nepal exclusively in fatalist terms, as argued by the Nepali anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista. Yet, accounting for these reinterpretations requires a personally-tailored inquiry, usually overlooked by sociocentric approaches that patronizingly disregard people as mere carriers of a worldview, as in the case of the ontological turn.
The author would like to thank Sandeep, Jagya Prasad and Kapil Upadhyay; Bhuwan Karki; Dr. Dimitri Tsintjilonis; Dr. Hanna Rauber; Robert and Susi Groeli; Tracy Ghale; Dr. Katherine Baxter; Dr. Jeevan Sharma; the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS); the editors of HIMALAYA and the two anonymous peer reviewers, who all contributed, in different ways, to the present essay. The author is also sincerely grateful to the following bodies for financial help: The University of Edinburgh (SSPS scholarship; SSPS PhD Fieldwork Fund 2015; SSPS PhD Conference Fund 2015, 2017, 2018; Tweedie Exploration Fund); Janggen-Pöhn Foundation; RHW Foundation; Fondazione Felix Leemann. A previous version of this essay was awarded the 2017 Dor Bahadur Bista Prize for best graduate student paper by the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies (ANHS).
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.
Poletti, Samuele. 2018. Obscure Existential Narratives: Predetermination and Freedom in Nepalese Horoscopic Knowledge.. HIMALAYA 38(1).
Available at: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/himalaya/vol38/iss1/10