Divining troubles, or divining troubles? Emergent and conflictual dimensions of Bangladeshi divination

James M. Wilce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Divination is more dialogical than some diviners or anthropologists have made it appear. I analyze the transcript of one Bangladeshi divination event, comparing it with a dozen others performed by one diviner, Delwar, revealing how tenuously he manages to assign a single meaning to troubles, especially when clients openly compare his declarations with their intimate knowledge of those troubles. I explain how divinations could appear to be texts rather than emergent products of interaction. Diviners entextualize their declamations, doing their best to keep context at bay. Anthropologists who concentrate on textual products of divination - like Delwar's declamations - have made divination appear to enable groups to manage conflicts by transcending personal intentionality. Such representations elide troublesome interactive processes in which declamations emerge, meet potential rejection by clients, and are always vulnerable to recontextualization as clients might return to the diviner as events shift their perception of earlier divinations ' accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)190-200
Number of pages11
JournalAnthropological Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2001


  • Conflict
  • Dialogism
  • Divination
  • Entexualization
  • South Asia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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