Dealing with uncertainty: Shamans, marginal capitalism, and the remaking of history in postsocialist Mongolia



In this article, I explore the proliferation of previously suppressed shamanic practices among ethnic Buryats in Mongolia after the collapse of socialism in 1990. Contrary to the Buryats' expectation that shamanism would solve the uncertainties brought about by the market economy, it has created additional spiritual uncertainties. As skeptical Buryats repeatedly propitiate their angry origin spirits to alleviate the causes of their misfortunes, they reconstruct their history, which was suppressed by state socialism. The Buryats make their current calamities meaningful by placing them within the shifting history of their tragic past. The sense of uncertainty, fear, and disillusionment experienced by the Buryats also characterizes daily life in places other than Mongolia. This study reflects broader anthropological concerns about the emergence of new cultural spaces and practices in former socialist and preindustrial societies undergoing transitions to market economies.