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Spirituality
Author: Rosalind C Morris
ISBN: 0822324814
Subcategory: Occult & Paranormal
Pages 392 pages
Publisher Duke University Press Books (April 21, 2000)
Language English
Category: Spirituality
Rating: 4.8
Votes: 930
ePUB size: 1558 kb
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eBook In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand (Body, Commodity, Text) download

by Rosalind C Morris


tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums.

In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. Through her careful examination of the transformations of spirit mediumship wrought by the mass media, Morris takes readers into the world of the northern Thai past to discover the anticipations of future histories. In this process, she finds new objects for anthropological inquiry, including romantic love and epistolary poetry.

Start by marking In the Place of Origins: Modernity .

Start by marking In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read. In a world driven by the twin fantasies of pastness and newness, Rosalind C. Morris reveals that spirit mediumship is not simply a theater of atavistic tendency but an arena in which it is possible to read the relationsh In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums.

In the place of origins: modernity and its mediums in northern Thailand. Zuma’s R65m Nkandla splurge. This volume assembles in one place the work of scholars who are making key contributions to a new approach to the United Nations, and to global organizations and international law more generally. Anthropology has in recent years taken on global organizations as a legitimate source of its subject matter.

Jonathan Sterne, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Durham: Duke Press, 2003) Rosalind Morris, In the place of origins: modernity and its mediums in northern Thailand, (New York: Columbia.

Through Morris’s and Leonard’s lucid, highly readable translation, Charles de Brosses’s On the Worship of Fetish Gods has been . In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand (Body, Commodity, Text).

Situated at the intersection of philology and ethnoanthropology, The Returns of Fetishism provides a provocative counter model to David Hume’s Natural History of Religion.

In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums

In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. Rosalind C. Morris, Judith Farquhar, Jean Comaroff, Arjun Appadurai. Thomas Borchert, "In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand. Morris, Judith Farquhar, Jean Comaroff, Arjun Appadurai," The Journal of Religion 81, no. 3 (Ju. 2001): 509-510. Of all published articles, the following were the most read within the past 12 months. The Apostle Paul in Arabia. Stephen's Defense before the Sanhedrin.

Morris, R. C. In the Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern Thailand. Durham: Duke University Press, 2000. Ramitanon, S. Phi jao nai, 2nd edn. Chiangmai: Ming Műang Press, 2002.

In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand (Body, Commodity, Text) Rosalind C Morris In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. Morris reveals that spirit mediumship is not simply a theater of atavistic tendency but an arena in which it is possible to read the relationships between new forms of representation and subjectivity, as well as new modes of magic and political power.

2000 In the Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern Thailand .

2000 In the Place of Origins: Modernity and its Mediums in Northern Thailand (Durham: Duke University). 1994 New Worlds from Fragments: Film, Ethnography, and the Representation of Northwest Coast Cultures (Boulder: Westview Press). Morris, (E. Durham: Duke University Press.

In the Place of Origins tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. In a world driven by the twin fantasies of pastness and newness, Rosalind C. Morris reveals that spirit mediumship is not simply a theater of atavistic tendency but an arena in which it is possible to read the relationships between new forms of representation and subjectivity, as well as new modes of magic and political power. Through her careful examination of the transformations of spirit mediumship wrought by the mass media, Morris takes readers into the world of the northern Thai past to discover the anticipations of future histories. In this process, she finds new objects for anthropological inquiry, including romantic love and epistolary poetry. She then turns her eye toward the relationships between commodification and prosaic form and photography and the discourses of gendered and national identity. Attending to these issues as they manifest themselves in the practices of mediums, Morris describes both the mundane activities of spirit mediums and the grand ambitions to political authority that are embodied in the increasingly spectacular forms of possession that are becoming so popular with both tourists and local culture brokers. In the Place of Origins traverses this ground with accounts of right-wing militarism and ritual revival during the 70s, and of the democracy movement of 1992, when a global mass media was galvanized by images of military repression and the spectacle of traditional ritual power in cursing. Finally, considering the claims that mediums make to magical power in the face of both AIDS and the Asian economic crisis, Morris reveals the potency of extrajudicial forms of power and violence in the late modern era. This provocative study will interest anthropologists, historians, Asianists, and those involved in gender, performance, media, and literary studies.
Super P
"Dazzling" is a word that seems to come to mind when describing this book. It is used in a laudatory manner by the two academic luminaries who provided blurbs on the back cover. Rey Chow praises In the Place of Origins as "a dazzling accomplishment". For Gayatri Spivak , "this is a text of dazzling instructive simplicity." Well, I was more frazzled than dazzled by Rosalind Morris's book. And I failed to perceive its "instructive simplicity". To me, this was only a compendium of bewildering jargon, rambling descriptions, sloppy reasoning, and bad editing. It was ethnographically and theoretically uncouth. In fact, I couldn't make any sense out of it. I had to get back at my reading several times to complete the book, and I did it only for the purpose of writing a review on this website. In short, my advise to the potential reader is: spare yourself that trouble. Don't take pains to read it, for this was indeed a painful experience.

Granted, the topic is interesting. Chiang Mai and northern Thailand are fascinating places, with a distinctive culture that mixes tradition with modernity. Mediums are part of the local landscape and, far from receding from the scene, they have benefited from a veritable explosion of magical practices. People turn to mediums and spirits for personal or professional purposes: for love and marriage, power and money, health and luck. Stereotypically, those seeking advice about love and beauty are young women, those wanting luck and physical prowess, young men. Business advice is as often the concern of middle-aged women as of men, but healing is a universal need. In the homes of mediums, one is apt to encounter bankers and real estate entrepreneurs, local politicians and mafia thugs, all coming for consultation and advice. Buddhist monks, who are considered capable of achieving magical powers through the study of texts and meditation practice, often deride mediums as charlatans. But clients tend to believe them because they have faith in the transformative powers of their predictions.

The episodes of spirit possession are a frightening scene, replete with growls, convulsions, spasms, vomiting, spitting, and speaking in unfamiliar voices. The first experience of possession comes without warning, and is often likened to a kind of violation, a dispossession of self-knowledge and of memory. It often takes years for mediums to come to terms with their new identity, to domesticate the spirit that periodically takes hold of their mind and body, and to channel the seizures towards professional ends. After each possession, the medium must be told what has happened, and he or she often asks what the spirit has said. Spirits are historical or legendary figures, and they transform the medium into the receptacle of their wisdom. Thus, when an illiterate woman is possessed by a Buddhist saint and enabled to write, entranced, in an old script, or when an uneducated medium is able to recite with perfection the verses of a Pali sutra that she cannot read, a miraculous aura surrounds her.

Mediums acquire spirits over time, eventually being possessed by several discrete characters, most of whom are associated with a distinct epoch and a particular site of origin. The spirits who finally compose the miniature pantheon of one medium are all integrated with each other in an overarching hierarchy and with the spirits of other mediums in relation to whom they are also relatively positioned. Praise ceremonies assign each medium a definite place in the ritual hierarchy, with the hosts listed in the invitations in order of seniority. The performances of mediums are characterized by a profound concern with decorum, including period costumes signifying generic pastness and a proliferation of signifiers of invented tradition. Medias and the technologies of mass reproduction go hand in hand with the occult practices of mediumship, and many photographs or videos of medium performances circulate among the public. Rosalind Morris elaborates on the parallel between the medium and the media, between mediumship and the technologies of mass reproduction. "Ultimately, it is this knowing capacity to look like an image, to be legible as a copy, that constitutes the radical newness of mediumship in the age of mechanical reproduction."

The argument—and the title—of the book are built on a simple tension between the past and the present, the origins and the locale. Spirit possession in northern Thailand or elsewhere has often been treated as a mode of "presencing the past". Spirits are historical figures summoned to weigh on the concerns of the present. In the context of this ethnography, northern Thailand has emerged as a sign of pastness in the national imaginary. "Chiang Mai has become a fetish of the picturesque," writes the author, and Northerners have come "to inhabit the delirium of the nation and to take on the function of signifying pastness." The ancient kingdom of Lanna in particular has come to signify an anterior history that is both pre-Thai and proto-Thai. It was once a vassal state of Burma, and has been treated by the Siamese as a dependent locality subject to "internal colonialism". The tourism industry has also incited local affiliation and a production of local culture. Chiang Mai is "a city in which the signs of antiquity are constantly being produced anew." Pastness, and specifically northern pastness, has become an object of desire. Hence the proliferation of imitation antiques, period costumes, and ethno-tourism among hill tribe peoples in the surrounding mountainous areas. Even the local language or dialect has experienced a kind of revival.

Rosalind Morris keeps coming back to the idea of origins, although she doesn't specify what she really means by that. Northern Thailand is seen as the nation's constitutive outside, a place of origins where the foundations of Thailand originated. Chiang Mai is located "at the center of the periphery", sitting at the margin of the nation-state and providing it with a token authenticity. Mediums claim a special connexion to original figures, heroes and deities who are part of the national narrative. Rites of possession hint at the origin of language, as they "constantly reenacts the drama of language's origination." Yet "for every tale of origin, there is an encounter with the absence of origins." Alterity lurks in the place of origins. Myths of origins often have heroes and founders of dynasties coming from outside and conquering the land. Foreign gods such as Shiva enter into the national pantheon. Many mediums are themselves of non-Thai, especially Chinese ethnicity. They use artifacts and magic formulas borrowed from tribes peoples and other minorities. Origins "is experienced as a site of loss", a place that is always already absent.

The book is ostensibly based on field research in northern Thailand, although the context and duration of fieldwork is not specified. The author claims of having spoken to "monks, mediums, flower vendors, teachers, students, maid, and taxi drivers". But she says very little about the context of these conversations, how they were structured, and how she fit in the picture as a participant observer. She assumes heroic knowledge on the part of the ethnographer: commenting at length on a nineteenth-century love poem, she notes that reading this text properly requires skills in "Pali, Sanskrit, Khmer, Mon, Burmese and Thai", as well as extensive knowledge of the Buddhist literature. It also requires a good knowledge of Derrida and of deconstruction as it is practiced in comparative literature departments in the US. Elsewhere in the book, she peppers her observations with snippets from Freud, Heidegger, Benjamin, Adorno, Foucault, Baudrillard and Bourdieu. As she states in the first chapter, "this book is informed by a belief that a post-structuralist valorization of difference and indeterminacy, as being at once the limit and the enabling condition of translation, is supported and even demanded by the reading of modern northern Thai texts." In other terms, you won't be able to read her book if you haven't been through Post-Structuralist Theory 101. But even if you did, skip it.
Samardenob
This book contains several interesting anecdotes about mediums in Northern Thailand, as well as Thai history and nation formation. If you don't know too much about Thailand, you will glean the type of insight that typically comes only after years of exposure to all things called "Thai." The bibliography is excellent.

The book's overall theme is fine. It's essentially a presentation of Northern Thailand's trendy, status-conscious clique of spirit mediums in the context of a showy and lucrative public phenomenon that displays some type of homesickness for the once-great Lanna Kingdom, which was usurped by Thai nationalism. (Described in the book as a quasi-religious opiate of the psychically impoverished masses, I will still admit to being a little bit "high" on the "almost narcotic" value of Thainess.)

However, I question the language and reason behind many parts of the book. The text is rather convoluted; you will find 5-clause sentences with heavy indulgence in parentheticals. You might find the author overly concerned with verifying the authenticity of her knowledge and experience of the culture she describes.

For example, many phrases are "translated" into transliterated Thai, perhaps needlessly: "Indeed the growth in traffic 'problems,' referred to in the all-encompassing term 'jams' (rot tid), is compulsively remarked by residents as the sign of Chiang Mai's impending loss of authenticity." The word is ''''', and it means "traffic jam." Literally, "cars (physically) stopped." The value of inserting that word in Romanized Thai is not entirely clear to me.

Extensive knowledge is asserted, and yet the book is littered with linguistic misstatements or misunderstandings. Here are the two worst offenders, both about homonyms:

1) p. 115: "And in the homonymy that makes beauty a mode of tribute (suai means both tribute and beauty)..."

Beauty is a key value in Thai culture, and receives much tribute, but this statement is flatly false. The words for "tribute" and "beauty" are spelled with the same consonants, but they have different tone marks and are pronounced differently. They are not considered as being spelled or written the same, i.e. homographs. I cannot think of any Thai word describing the relationship between words like this. If any such relationship existed, there would arguably be some sort of relationship between the words for tree, silk, new, right?, and no. (And there's not, except in tongue twisters and maybe puns, but those are jokes.)

2) p. 297: "The word for Saturday is homonymous with that for women in Thai, which fact is well used by Khun Daeng."

Again, flatly false. The words for "Saturday" and "woman" use entirely different vowels, with different sounds. They are not considered homonyms or even homographs. I have never heard of a relationship between these two words, although I have heard people remark on the relationship between Saturday and sadness, which actually are homonyms (spelled differently; pronounced exactly the same). For example, family and friends urged me to reschedule my wedding, because they were concerned that my Saturday marriage would be marked with sadness.

Finally, I took issue with some of the author's characterizations and observations. For example, in the "Introduction," she describes how the secular, adult son of a middle-aged couple has rejected their new life as spirit mediums. She wrote that he no longer lived with his parents, "...but had gone south, to Bangkok, in pursuit of an education." In *pursuit* of an education?! This young man undoubtedly already had AN education. More accurately, he was probably going to Bangkok in pursuit of MORE education. (Possibly at Chula, no less!)

I'm glad I got this via interlibrary loan. It was nice to test drive, but it's not my style.