Spirit Possession in Buddhist Southeast Asia

Worlds Ever More Enchanted

Edited by Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière & Peter A. Jackson

Brac-Jackson-cover

Available worldwide
ISBN Hardback: 978-87-7694-309-7, £70 (March 2022)
ISBN Paperback: 978-87-7694-310-3, £25 (September 2022)

In dramatic contrast to the reported growing influence of doctrinal and fundamentalist forms of religion in some parts of Southeast Asia, the predominantly Buddhist societies of the region are witnessing an upsurge of spirit possession cults and diverse forms of magical ritual. This is found in many social strata, including the urban poor, rising middle classes and elite groups, and across the different political systems of Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. This volume reveals both the central historical place of spirit possession rituals in the Buddhist cultures of mainland Southeast Asia and their important contemporary roles to enhance prosperity and protection. This book examines the increasing prominence of spirit mediumship and divination across the region by exploring the interplay of neoliberal capitalism, visual media, the network cultures of the Internet, and the politics of cultural heritage and identity. It advances beyond critiques of the “secularization” and “disenchantment” theses to explore the processes of modernity that are actively producing magical worldviews and stimulating the rise of spirit cults. As such, it not only challenges the assumptions of modernization theory but demonstrates that the cults in question are novel ritual forms that emerge out of inherently modern conditions.

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Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière is an anthropologist at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris and former director of its Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CASE). She specializes on Burma-Myanmar, where she has conducted regular field research since the 1980s, and has written widely on religion and rituals.

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Peter A. Jackson is Emeritus Professor in Thai cultural history at the Australian National University. Over the past four decades, he has written extensively on religion, gender and sexuality in modern Thailand as well as critical approaches to Asian area studies. His ongoing research includes studying media and masculinity in Thai gay cultures and religion and ritual in Thai communities affected by HIV.

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