Seeing numbers: Interpretations of dream images and urban uncertainty

Brittany Birberick


This article explores the interpretive and divinatory practices and strategies used in the South African street-based lottery game fafi. The game, run by the Chinese community in South Africa and played predominantly by low-income black South Africans, utilizes a set of images and divinatory practices, particularly dream interpretation. The article analyzes the practices and history of fafi, alongside the financial and interpretive stakes of the gambling game, to understand contemporary orientations towards the future and uncertainty. Dreaming—learning how to dream and how to interpret dream images—as a gambling skill is understood in relation to traditional healing and diagnostic practices in South Africa. In the context of shifting urban landscapes, the piece argues that “the future” has become an entity to get ahead of rather than a projected goal or destination one hopes for.

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/709749