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Open Access Flows of words and flows of blessing: The poetics of invocatory speech among the Sa’dan Toraja

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Flows of words and flows of blessing: The poetics of invocatory speech among the Sa’dan Toraja

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The human propensity to address the unseen is a profound anthropological and linguistic puzzle. Ethnographers of ‘prayer’ in Southeast Asia have proposed that invocations are opposed as a form of utterance to other genres such as narration. This paper challenges that assumption with the analysis of some Toraja examples having a more declarative and instrumental quality. It also expands on Schefold’s observations (2001) about ‘flows of blessing’ as a characteristically Austronesian concept. Above all, the intensely poetic qualities of Toraja invocations suggest the possibility of a deeper link between prayer and poetry, as linguistic genres intended to move the hearer.

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