Conference « Capitalist Modernity and the Enchantment of Political Culture: Spirits of Power in 21st Century Thailand »

by Peter Jackson, Australian National University, Professeur invité MSH

organized by CIERL

In terms of theories of modernity that dominated the social sciences for much of the 20th century, the growing prominence and diversification of spirit cults and magical ritual in many East and Southeast Asia societies represent some of the least anticipated trends in religious life since the end of the Cold War. These diverse phenomena across the region challenge both the secularisation thesis and the equation of market-based, mediatised urban modernity with the rationalisation and presumed disenchantment of social and political life. In Thailand there have also been significant changes in the state’s relations to religious practice and ritual. Theravada Buddhist teachings and ritual, and the institution of the Buddhist monkhood or sangha, all remain highly important symbolically. However, alongside its formal historical commitment to Buddhism, the Thai state at both national and local levels has also adopted an implicit policy of appropriating forms of popular religious expression that are amenable to furthering its objectives and to enhancing the monarchy’s charismatic authority. Since the late 1990s, organs of the Thai state have increasingly sponsored unorthodox rituals linked with cults of wealth, many of which draw on spirit possession. Secular and religious modernists trenchantly critique these cults as “superstitious” perversions of Thai Buddhism. Nonetheless, the cults of wealth have found increasingly prominent places in state-sponsored ritual. I present the outlines of an account that views politically inflected forms of enchantment in 21st century Thailand not as “residues” of “premodernity” but as emerging from the conditions of 21st century Southeast Asian modernity. I argue that there have been radical changes in the regimes of power over popular ritual in Thailand in the decades since the end of the Cold War and the rise of forces of neoliberal globalisation.

Peter A. Jackson PhD is Emeritus Professor of Thai history and cultural studies in the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific. Over the past 30 years, he has written extensively on modern Thai cultural history, with special interests in religion, sexuality and critical approaches to Asian histories and cultures. Peter Jackson is a founding member of the editorial collective of Hong Kong University Press’s Queer Asia monograph series and he established the Thai Rainbow Archives Project, which with support from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme, has collected and digitised Thai gay, lesbian, and transgender magazines and community organisation newsletters. His recent books include: “The Ambiguous Allure of the West: Traces of the Colonial in Thailand” (with Rachel Harrison HKUP 2010), “Queer Bangkok: 21st Century Markets, Media and Rights” (HKUP 2011), “The Language of Sex and Sexuality in Thailand” (with Pimpawun Boonmongkon, Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai 2012,) and “Cultural Pluralism and Gender/Sex Diversity in Thailand” (with Narupon Duangwises, Princess Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Bangkok, 2013). His latest book, “First Queer Voices from Thailand: Uncle Go’s Advice Columns for Gays, Lesbians and Kathoeys”, was published by HKUP in April 2016.

Mardi 15 mai 2018 de 12h à 14h

Grande salle du CIERL
Campus du Solbosch
Bâtiment R17 – 1er niveau
Avenue Franklin Roosevelt 17
1050 Bruxelles

Entrée gratuite sans inscription