Performing the Divine: Mediums, Markets and Modernity in Urban Vietnam

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by Kirsten W. Endres

Vietnam in the last two decades has experienced not only market reform and significant economic growth but also a related, symbiotic revival of popular religion. It is no surprise, then, that popular beliefs and rituals that once were attacked as wasteful and superstitious have again become a conspicuous feature of contemporary urban and rural life. A new blossoming of spirit mediumship has been part of this revival, not least that involving ritual possession by the deities of the Four Palace Pantheon, which this study based in urban Hanoi brings to life with a deft handling of complex theory, historical research, ethnographic material and analysis. This is indeed a sojourn into the world of mediumship in contemporary urban Vietnam – a spirited world full of colour, laughter, music and ritual dance that operates according to its own rules and principles – but it is also an insightful study of spirituality, performance, gender and heritage, one that highlights the fluidity of ritual practice and contestations of ritual performance among practitioners.

"This is an excellent volume dealing with timely and important topics for scholars of Vietnam as well as those interested in the cross-cultural study of popular religions." - Karen Fjelstad, San Jose State University

"Performing the Divine is anthropological research of the highest standard. Based upon innovative field research, this interesting and compelling volume makes numerous theoretical, historical, and ethnographic contributions. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the role of religion and ritual in providing meaning in a dynamic social world." - Shaun Kingsley Malarney, International Christian University, Tokyo

Kirsten W. Endres is a senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale (Germany). She has worked and carried out field research in Vietnam since the mid-1990s. Her ethnographic research spans rural and urban communities in both northern and southern regions of the country.

Publication year: 2011
254 pp / 229mm x 152mm
33 b/w figures
ISBN: 978-87-7694-076-8, Paperback
ISBN: 978-87-7694-075-1, Hardback

NIAS Press