A Poetics and Politics of Possession: Taiwanese Spirit-Medium Cults and Autonomous Popular Cultural Space

A Poetics and Politics of Possession: Taiwanese Spirit-Medium Cults and Autonomous Popular... positions 9:1 Spring 2001 palpably real, the normally merely metaphorical figurations on which the nation-state depends for its own legitimating appropriation of history, popular religion—the bodies of the urban poor—“suppl[ies] stately discourse with its concrete referents.” At the same time, participants in the possession cults themselves become in some way empowered—able to make magic from the magic of the state.1 All of this might be applied to contemporary Taiwanese popular religion, except the magic involved is that of a state that went out of existence in 1911. Most discussions blithely skip over this issue, referring to the bureaucracy of the other world as an obviously more or less accurate reflection of thisworldly administration, all the while failing to note that the Jade Emperor’s earthly counterpart can no longer be found.2 So that, perhaps, is one way of stating the question this essay seeks to address: What possibilities open up when the state chooses (as I shall discuss in more detail below) to rely on other, secular sources for its legitimacy? Taussig’s analysis, which I by no means would wish to dispute, fits rather nicely with many currently accepted notions of what constitutes popular culture. As is well known, http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png positions asia critique Duke University Press

A Poetics and Politics of Possession: Taiwanese Spirit-Medium Cults and Autonomous Popular Cultural Space

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Abstract

positions 9:1 Spring 2001 palpably real, the normally merely metaphorical figurations on which the nation-state depends for its own legitimating appropriation of history, popular religion—the bodies of the urban poor—“suppl[ies] stately discourse with its concrete referents.” At the same time, participants in the possession cults themselves become in some way empowered—able to make magic from the magic of the state.1 All of this might be applied to contemporary Taiwanese popular religion, except the magic involved is that of a state that went out of existence in 1911. Most discussions blithely skip over this issue, referring to the bureaucracy of the other world as an obviously more or less accurate reflection of thisworldly administration, all the while failing to note that the Jade Emperor’s earthly counterpart can no longer be found.2 So that, perhaps, is one way of stating the question this essay seeks to address: What possibilities open up when the state chooses (as I shall discuss in more detail below) to rely on other, secular sources for its legitimacy? Taussig’s analysis, which I by no means would wish to dispute, fits rather nicely with many currently accepted notions of what constitutes popular culture. As is well known,

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positions asia critiqueDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2001

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