Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, Vol 28, No 3 (2015)

A Spirit Map of Bangkok: Spirit Shrines and the City in Thailand

Andrew A. Johnson
Issued Date: 18 Jan 2016

Abstract


As many scholars of Thai Buddhism have shown, Thailand’s religious sphere incorporates animist and Brahminist elements into a new fusion. But this religious system is not seamless, rather it rests upon internal contradiction and division, between upper and lower class, rural and urban. Alongside the official spirit shrines devoted to the Thai state and the continued progress and expansion of the city, via an analysis of urban spirit cults, I address the unexpected irruption of nature, death, and accident into the planned urban cityscape. Here, I examine one nocturnal pilgrimage by a spirit medium and her devotees across Bangkok’s spiritual cityscape. I ask what this ‘spirit map’ of Bangkok opens up for analysis in the context of those areas of Bangkok swallowed up by its continuous expansion, and address the nature of urban religious aspirations for her and her spirit’s devotees. Ultimately, drawing from Bhabha’s idea of hybridity, I argue that this medium’s Bangkok presents a challenge to established hierarchies of power, a challenge that focuses on the unusual (e.g. accident sites) as evidence for the appearance of the transcendent.

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DOI: 10.1558/jasr.v28i3.28434

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