For an anthropology of destiny

Alice Elliot, Laura Menin


This preface develops an argument for a comparative anthropology that takes the concept of destiny as a fertile laboratory for anthropological thought. The articles in this collection show how destiny’s distinguishing heuristic feature may be what we call “malleable fixity”: a paradoxical juxtaposition of images of temporal and historical fixity with a practical reckoning and open-ended self-reorientation. Exploring the radically different ways in which destiny is evoked, enacted, and (re)theorized locally, we argue that an anthropology of destiny is, at its heart, the comparative study of diverse temporal orderings of human—as well as divine and cosmic—action.


destiny, malleable fixity, action, temporality, freedom

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/698223