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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät - Institut für Asien- und Afrikawissenschaften

Abgeschlossene Forschungsprojekte

Abb.: DFG

The Ritual Reproduction of 'Khmerness' in Thailand: Popular Religion and Social Structure at the Nation-State's Periphery

Foto: Benjamin Baumann

Project Outline

Ethnicity, the historically constituted and dialectic classification of social groups according to ethnic categories, serves as a structuring principle in the plural societies of modern Southeast Asia. Analogously to the premises of social class in class-based societies, ethnicity assignes relative positions in the hierarchical social structures of contemporary Southeast Asian societies. Current studies indicate that popular religion, perceived as a cultural marker of social groups, is becoming more and more important in these processes of internal and external ascriptions of collective identity. Popular religion and especially the ritual practices that go along with it become therefore crucial elements in the dialectical constitution of ethnic groups in modern Southeast Asia.

Thailand's Khmer-speakers, who until recently were classified as an 'invisible minority' by social scientists, are inseparably associated with magic, spirit cults, and Brahmanism in Thailand's public sphere. Ambiguity characterizes the public's dealing with these popular religious forms, which command a great deal of mystical potency as local traditions, while at the same time representing deviations from the imagined orthodoxy of Thai Theravada Buddhism. This research project aimed at exploring the local conceptions of magic, spirit cults, and Brahmanism as well es their associated ritual practices in Buriram Province in Thailand's lower Northeast. Correlating them with the socio-cultural self-identifications of Thailand's Khmer-speakers the project asks for the meaning of ambiguity in everyday lifeworlds in the region.



Project Members