Cornell University

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Ghostly Meanings, Spectral Affects: Market Transformations and Possibilities in the Thai Spirit World

Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Kahin Center
640 Stewart Ave, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA

3/11/2020 UPDATE: Cancelled and postponed to Fall 2020


Part of the Ronald and Janette Gatty series

Megan Sinnott, Associate Professor, Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Georgia State University

In contemporary Thailand, new and transformed spiritual and religious practices are thriving within a capitalist market structure. The human body plays a central role within these spiritual practices, as both an object of devotion (such as the sacralization of human remains) and as the site of communication with the spirit world through mediumship and possession. This talk focuses on the possibilities provided by the market for shifting sensibilities around the body, and material objects as body-substitutes, such as the popularity of “angel-dolls” in the practice of child-spirit beliefs. Capitalism is often perceived as an obliterating, colonizing force; when its traces are found in religious and spiritual practices, it is easy to come to the conclusion that these practices are somehow lessened, or cheapened, by their commodification. I want to resist this temptation, and ask instead, what are the cultural meanings associated with transformed spiritual practices and the material objects integral to these practices? If these commodified objects, such as amulets and other material objects of devotion, are also objects of desire – compelling forms that inspire delight and interest – how can we understand them as both “authentic” sacred objects and products of the capitalist marketplace?

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology

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Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Anthropology, Southeast Asia Program, Asian Studies

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James Nagy

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Megan Sinnott

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Georgia State University

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