Caught in the language of fate: The quality of destiny in Taiwan

Stéphanie Homola


In Taiwan, fate (mingyun) powerfully emerges and circulates in and through language. I focus on three core genres through which the “language of fate” operates in local life—the language of rumors, the language of personal crisis, and the language of misfortune—and trace the multiple registers through which people come to be “caught” by this language, and thus by fate itself. The language of fate effectively catches those involved in its fated logics by requiring human participation, responsibility, decision—and even creation—operating through the constitutive tension between fixity and motility that lies at the heart of the ethnographic concept of mingyun. Developing this argument, I show that the language of fate here is a conceptual substance rather than a “second best” entry point into mingyun.


Taiwan, fate, rumor, China, mingyun, mantic arts

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/698354