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"Just Do It (Over): Culture, Classification, and Calendars in China (and Beyond)"

September 15, 2010


Mulligans. Second-serves. Playing the point over. Reframing the Ouija board question. Retaking the SAT.

almanacWhat happens when, after messing up the first time, you want badly to “do it over?”  It has often been said that there are no do-overs in life, but there seems to be a good deal of evidence to the contrary, from golf and tennis to the resurrection of public careers.  In the broadest sense, we might well ask whether or not the “do-over” (or its temptations) are built into our very humanity (cultural and biological), and several of these broad questions will weave through this lecture on Friday (Sept. 17) at 4 p.m., in the Porter Brown conference room, Center for the Sciences.

Practices of Chinese divination will provide a specific way of approaching the topic, which has broad implications for social theory and the understanding of Chinese culture. Professor LaFleur will investigate the intersection of three overlapping features of Chinese divination—anxiety about the future, the power of written classification, and the concept of “secondary elaboration,” which allows practitioners to rethink or redo certain aspects of the divination.  LaFleur will take listeners through the mechanics of several divination practices in order to illustrate the elaborate lengths to which it is possible (and often ultimately impossible) to go in order to find the answer one wants to find within a complex cultural system.

This lecture is part of the Asian Studies Faculty Research Seminars series designed to showcase faculty work. The seminars are meant to connect faculty research with a wider audience and wider world of ideas, and serve to showcase the breadth and depth of the Beloit College Asian Studies faculty.

This event is free and open to the campus and community.