Dr. Marco Lazzarotti

Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung "Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose. Bewältigungsstrategien in Ostasien und Europa"

IKGF Research Project:

Fortuneteller and Catholicism in Taiwan: Building the Cosmological Other

This research is about the contact between the Chinese Folk Religion and the Catholic faith. In many of the stories I have collected during the ten years I have spent in Taiwan, it appears an apparent incommunicability between fortune tellers, but also other kind mediums, and everything related to Christianity. In my research I would like to explore this topic by considering fortune telling as a sort of storytelling. Within the process of storytelling, it happens what Umberto Eco defined as the “contractual” dimension of meaning and reference. “Contractual realism” means that we discuss a certain thing because that thing exists (realism) but also because we agree with a community about how to discuss that certain thing (contract). When we are talking about something that does not exist (or that we cannot see), there is always the certainty that we are not talking nonsense (Eco 1997, p. 234 et seq.). Therefore, the consensus becomes a complex operation of negotiation between the speakers. This complex operation of negotiation, which Eco calls consensus, is nothing other than the context. In our case, the context is thus designed as a circuit composed by the narrator (the fortuneteller) and his audience (the person who asked for his/her help). To this context, however, it is necessary to add a third element: what Bruner called “overall narrative” (Bruner 1991) or, in other words, the cultural context, which has great importance in the study on narratives. This cultural context consists of socially established frames of meaning in terms of which people perform their actions. These frames of meaning are used both to interpret everyday facts and to create or interpret the stories raised by them. In my previous work (Lazzarotti 2019), I refer to this complex set of relationships as the Circuit of Narration. In our peculiar case, the one represented by the fortuneteller-client, the Circuit of Narration should take into consideration that sometimes the narrator and the audience (even if they speak the same language) belong to different cosmologies. Both sides are aware of their reciprocal differences and, in some ways, incorporate these differences into their narrations. The narration of the other is thus built and acquires meaning through the differences that are immanent to the context made by them. These immanent differences are created in various ways, but they have their roots in the historical encounter between the Catholic missionaries and the local Taiwanese culture. An encounter that was based on the depiction of the Taiwanese popular religion gods as idols of the pagan religion, decried by the Bible, or as the pantheon's divinity of ancient Greece and Rome, by the side of the Catholic missionaries. At the same time, Taiwanese people considered and still consider Christianity as a religion imported by foreigners and headed by foreigners. It appears clear that both these ways to consider the other are full of bias and are intrinsically linked with a negative judgment value (Lazzarotti 2008). Both the parts involved in this circuit of narrations belong to historic patterns that already framed the other as a negative entity whose differences are considered immanent to the context created by the circuit of narration, and in fact, they mold and influence the circuit of narration and therefore, the narration that comes out from it.

Curriculum Vitae

Marco Lazzarotti started his education at the University of Pisa, where he obtained his B.A. and first M.A. in Conservation of Cultural, Environmental and Architectonic Heritages, with a specialization in Archaeology. After graduation, in order to expand his horizons, he decided to go to Taiwan, where he dedicated himself to the study of the Chinese language and later obtained a Master Degree in Cultural Anthropology. During 10 years of living in Taiwan, he did extensive fieldwork. All this work in the field helped him to reach an advanced knowledge of the Chinese language and culture. His research touches aspects linked to the effect of Catholicism on the tradition of ancestor rites in Taiwan, to Inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue, and to the Modernization of Funeral Rites in Taiwan. After that, he decided to move his family to Sierra Leone to contribute to a noble cause as well as to expand his horizons and anthropological perspectives. In Sierra Leone, he took on several academic activities, from teaching courses to being a Chief Librarian at the University of Makeni. He also taught Chinese classes for beginners in the Language Center of the University. He published his first book, Place, Alterity, and Narration in a Taiwanese Catholic Village. He has been selected as a member of The Phi Tau Phi Scholastic Honour Society of the Republic of China.

Selected Publications

Place, Alterity and Narration in a Taiwanese Catholic Village. Palgrave-Macmillan, 2019.

Books Chapters
Place, the Locus of Alterity, In, Human Coordinates: Rethinking Space and PlaceAcross Disciplines., Mariorani, A., Mancini, B., Rao, eds., Cambridge Scholars, 2021

Democrazia, tecnologia e prevenzione. La risposta delle democrazie asi-atiche al Covid-19,In, Pandemia 2020. La vita quotidiana in Italia con ilCovid-19, M&J Publishing House, Alessandra Guigoni e Renato Ferrari eds. 2020.

Taiwan, In, World Christian Encyclopedia 3rd ed., Edinburgh University Press, Gina A. Zurlo, Todd M. Johnson eds.Contributor.2019.

How the Universal Becomes Domestic: An Anthropological Case Study of the Shuiwei Village, Taiwan, In, The Household of God and Local Households: Revisiting the Domestic Church. Knieps-Port le Roi T., Mannion G., De Mey P.Editors. Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium (BETL), 254.,Leuven: Peeters Publishers.

To be or not to be: A few reflections on ethics, anthropology and the enlightenment, In, AntropoWebzin, 1-2/2017, 39-46.ISSN: 1801-88072014

Modern Life Traditional Death. Tradition and Modernization of Funeral Rites in Taiwan,In, Fu Jen International Religious Studies, Vol.8 No 1 (N. Summer2014), 108-126, ISSN 1994 8778.DOI: 10.29448 / FJIRS. 201406. 00062010

The Internal Structure of Dialogue. Two Taiwanese Case Studies. In, FuJen International Religious Studies, Vol.4 No 1. (N. Summer 2010), 1-17, ISSN1994 8778.DOI: 10.29448 / FJIRS. 201006. 0002