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Spirit Mediumship in Thailand : A Performance Theory Approach

Patamajorn, Ratapopn

German Title: Spirit Mediumship in Thailand : ein handlungstheoretischer Ansatz

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Abstract

As in a great theater where everybody is an actor, all of them presenting various types of performance, a chosen group acts as if they were gods or goddesses, following the traditions of various cultures. Their performances are very popular and have been demanded by audiences over many years. The audiences are made up of people who are clients and devotees and the special actors, or spirit media, have performed for them time and again. The intention of these performances is not for entertainment like other dramas where actors play a comedy or tragedy organized by the director of the presentation. Although sometimes these miraculous performances excite the audiences, the actors’ main purpose is to convince them that they have sacred gods in their bodies, are truly possessed and it is not deception. It seems that spirit media attempt to repudiate the fact that their actions are not drama, however the transformations that take place in their visages, movements and tone of voice are different from conventional acting and these changes are the influence of the gods who inhabit them. However, as long as scientific method is unable to substantiate the reality of soul and spirit, I still contemplate spirit mediumship from the viewpoint of performance through the human body, which is full of colour and action and depends on the interaction between the possession practitioner and others around them. Under the influence of Buddhism in Thai society, spirit media cite the maxims of Buddhism for their actions. On some occasions monks are invited to participate in their rituals. This implies that spirit media do not reject the main religion, but they accept the Buddhists and have borrowed their principles. Opinions on the main pattern of the spirit mediumship phenomena, from research articles, show that in many societies people go through a similar transformation or “turning point” to become spirit media. Women are the most popular possession practitioners. However, the details are different in each cultural context. As performers “spirit media” are exactly in the subjectivity corner. Their performance as gods has consequences for them and at the same time they are within a social construction. It has been helpful to compare the distinction between male and female spirit media. Through the eyes of the ethnologist, all the movements of my performers and their audiences have been observed and discussed both when they were performing on stage and also after the performance was over.

Translation of abstract (English)

As in a great theater where everybody is an actor, all of them presenting various types of performance, a chosen group acts as if they were gods or goddesses, following the traditions of various cultures. Their performances are very popular and have been demanded by audiences over many years. The audiences are made up of people who are clients and devotees and the special actors, or spirit media, have performed for them time and again. The intention of these performances is not for entertainment like other dramas where actors play a comedy or tragedy organized by the director of the presentation. Although sometimes these miraculous performances excite the audiences, the actors’ main purpose is to convince them that they have sacred gods in their bodies, are truly possessed and it is not deception. It seems that spirit media attempt to repudiate the fact that their actions are not drama, however the transformations that take place in their visages, movements and tone of voice are different from conventional acting and these changes are the influence of the gods who inhabit them. However, as long as scientific method is unable to substantiate the reality of soul and spirit, I still contemplate spirit mediumship from the viewpoint of performance through the human body, which is full of colour and action and depends on the interaction between the possession practitioner and others around them. Under the influence of Buddhism in Thai society, spirit media cite the maxims of Buddhism for their actions. On some occasions monks are invited to participate in their rituals. This implies that spirit media do not reject the main religion, but they accept the Buddhists and have borrowed their principles. Opinions on the main pattern of the spirit mediumship phenomena, from research articles, show that in many societies people go through a similar transformation or “turning point” to become spirit media. Women are the most popular possession practitioners. However, the details are different in each cultural context. As performers “spirit media” are exactly in the subjectivity corner. Their performance as gods has consequences for them and at the same time they are within a social construction. It has been helpful to compare the distinction between male and female spirit media. Through the eyes of the ethnologist, all the movements of my performers and their audiences have been observed and discussed both when they were performing on stage and also after the performance was over.

Item Type: Dissertation
Supervisor: Köpping, Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter
Date of thesis defense: 14 February 2008
Date Deposited: 20 May 2008 11:27
Date: 2008
Faculties / Institutes: The Faculty of Behavioural and Cultural Studies > Institute of Ethnology
Subjects: 300 Social sciences
Controlled Keywords: Thailand, Handlungstheorie, Spiritismus
Uncontrolled Keywords: Spirit MediumshipSpirit Mediumship
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