Accepted Paper:

Dreaming up futures: dream omens and magic in Bishkek  

Author:

Maria Louw (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the complex relationship between belief in fate and belief in the free will which is unfolded in Kyrgyz practices of dream interpretation. Dream interpretation and the magical manipulation of omens, it is argued, are means of experimenting with possible lives under conditions characterised by overwhelming social change.

Paper long abstract:

In Kyrgyzstan dreams are of great significance as sources of omens and divine revelations. Taking its point of departure in my recent fieldwork in the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, this paper will be concerned with the complex relationship between belief in fate and belief in the free will which is unfolded in Kyrgyz practices of dream interpretation: Through magical practices which manipulate dream omens people sometimes seek to affect what is about to happen, changing the fate that they, in other situations, claim not to have any control of. I will argue that dream interpretation and the magical manipulation of omens can be seen as means of imagining and experimenting with possible lives under conditions characterised by overwhelming social change and unpredictability. Dream omens embody peoples' fears about, and hopes for, how their lives may develop. With the magical acts that people handle dream omens with, they enter a virtual realm, an 'if' land, where they can reflect on how their lives would look like if fate showed up to be one way or the other. Divine signs and magical acts create different kinds of temporality, larger time horizons, to peoples' existence; they create orientations toward imagined futures in situations where the future seems uncertain, and they thereby help people dare to act to bring these imagined futures about.

Panel W074
Imprints of dreaming