In this article, I use Obeyesekere's concept of the work of culture to examine a case of magical poisoning among the Toraja (South Sulawesi, Indonesia). I argue that episodes of suffering must be situated not only culturally but also within the context of the individual sufferer's life experience, and suggest that we must consider carefully why only certain symbolic transformations of painful emotions may “work” for a given individual, why a symbolic transformation that “works” for one person may not for another, and why even apparently successful transformations of suffering may bring only temporary relief. [suffering, work of culture, magical poisoning, Toraja, Indonesia]
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