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Engaging the Spirit World: Popular Beliefs and Practices in Modern Southeast Asia

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Volume 5

Asian Anthropologies

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Engaging the Spirit World

Popular Beliefs and Practices in Modern Southeast Asia

Edited by Kirsten W. Endres and Andrea Lauser

238 pages, 19 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-358-7 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (March 2012)

eISBN 978-0-85745-359-4 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


This rich, articulate volume builds on and extends earlier explorations of the intricate connections between popular religious practices and modernity in the region. It offers fascinating insights into the diverse and endlessly creative transformations of Southeast Asian spirit worlds in the late 1990s and 2000s – a period of capitalist growth and widening affluence but also great social, political, and economic instability.  ·  Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“…a great volume that represents a remarkable contribution to the anthropological debate on ‘popular religion’ in contemporary Southeast Asia.”  ·  Anthropos

“…the editors have carefully selected papers that not only present engrossing ethnographic reports but also show theoretical sophistication. We are treated to explorations of theoretical issues spanning from materiality and ontology to an anthropological critique of modernity and rationality…Overall, this volume as a whole has presented a highly spirited argument against the modernity-secularization thesis. Insights have been provided to under-explored issues in anthropological studies…This has been an enlightening read. ·  Asian Anthropologist


In many parts of the contemporary world, spirit beliefs and practices have taken on a pivotal role in addressing the discontinuities and uncertainties of modern life. The myriad ways in which devotees engage the spirit world show the tremendous creative potential of these practices and their innate adaptability to changing times and circumstances. Through in-depth anthropological case studies from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam, the contributors to this book investigate the role and impact of different social, political, and economic dynamics in the reconfiguration of local spirit worlds in modern Southeast Asia. Their findings contribute to the re-enchantment debate by revealing that the “spirited modernities” that have emerged in the process not only embody a distinct feature of the contemporary moment, but also invite a critical rethinking of the concept of modernity itself.

Kirsten W. Endres is a Senior Research Fellow and Head of Research Group at Department II, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, Halle/Saale. Her monograph, Performing the Divine: Mediums, Markets and Modernity in Urban Vietnam (2011), examines the flourishing of urban spirit mediumship as part of the recent revival of popular religion in Vietnam.

Andrea Lauser is Professor in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Georg-August-University, Göttingen, Germany. She is a member of and lecturer in a new area studies network “Dynamics of Religion in Southeast-Asia,” composed of the Southeast Asia departments of Hamburg, Berlin, Muenster, Heidelberg and Göttingen, and funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Subject: Anthropology (General)Anthropology of Religion
Area: Asia-Pacific


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