A collection of articles

I’ve been talking to reporters a bit, lately. Here are some articles that resulted.

The cycle of rice: Part 3: Rice For the Spirits“, an article on Pchum Ben by Anthony Jensen and Kang Sothear, photos by John Vink, whose photographic series on “The Cycle of Rice” extends (far) beyond this article.

And, a nice short video!

Cambodian Pchum Ben festival is a time to feed hungry ghosts, another article on Pchum Ben, by Nathan Thompson

Buddhist monks, death rituals and black magic in Cambodia, by Erin Hale, a series of short answers excerpted from a lengthier interview on Deathpower.

Grave Lines: The democratization of Cambodia’s Coffin Industry, by Maddy Crowell and Mom Kunthear

The bewitching allure of magic tattoos, by Harriet Fitch Little, on the fad of non-Khmer getting ‘traditional’ Sak Yoan (Sak Yantra) tattoos.



Launching Deathpower in Cambodia

I’m particularly pleased that the first event for my recently published book, Deathpower: Buddhism’s Ritual Imagination in Cambodia [ahem: there’s a coupon code on that page], (available from the publisher, Columbia UP, here / Amazon here) will be in Cambodia itself. That feels not only appropriate to me, but important.

Tuesday, 19 January, 7 PM, at Meta House.

The work this book represents depends centrally and non-negotiably on those in Cambodia who spoke at length with me over the more than three years of fieldwork that constituted my engagement with the topic in Cambodia (primarily 2003-2006, but in shorter trips after that period as well). More particularly, it could never have been done without the tenacity, intelligence, and research of my friend and fellow-researcher Heng Chhun Oeurn, who worked with me throughout that period. She’s agreed to attend the book launch, though I’m not yet certain she’ll be willing to join me in addressing the audience, as I have asked.

So: if you’re in Phnom Penh or the nearby environs tomorrow night, at 7 PM, please join us at Meta House for the launch, organized by Mekong Review and Monument Books. And come up to say hello if you like.


Ontologies Project

My work has recently taken me into conversation with various disciplines about the nature of ‘ontology,’ by which different people, even within single disciplines, often mean quite different things (often without realizing it, apparently, and thus much of the discourse speaks past its interlocutors). Some of the work is fascinating, some infuriating, most of it knotty and complicated in ways I either love or loathe, depending on my energy and mood. Much of it is also unnecessarily ornately written, which I never appreciate, and will attempt to avoid, despite recognizing the value of technical jargon.

So, for myself, and intended as a fragment beginning of a project, here is a bibliography of things I have or intend to read, and about which I will eventually probably post a fair number of notes (or at least which will result in some writing of some sort). I’ll edit this as I go, not note the updates within this post [heads up!], and welcome suggestions and critiques in the comments. Continue reading


Review: Andrew Johnson’s “Ghosts of the New City”

Johnson, Andrew Alan. 2014. Ghosts of the new city: spirits, urbanity, and the ruins of progress in Chiang Mai. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

University of Hawai’i Link

Amazon Link

Review by Erik W. Davis

This book is about the idea of the city as a space similarly ‘haunted’ by magico-religious notions of charismatic power—power that retains its significance even in the face of Thailand’s transformation into a nation-state and current entrance into the neoliberal economic moment. (1)

This book is also an anthropologist’s response to Tony Day’s (2002) call for historical studies that take culture into account and draw connections between premodern ways of interpreting new forms of power and modern ones (see also Kapferer 1988). (2)

The quotes above indicate the thematic relations between such topics as the city, ghosts, urban development, and economic fluctuations. Another related question is asked a bit later: “What makes urbanity in Southeast Asia distinct from how it has been conceived in the West? How might the legacy of the city as a vehicle for articulating religious notions of power come to articulate ‘secular’ notions of power and progress?” (4) As such, Johnson sets his work in conversation with multiple disciplines, intersecting at his site: urban studies, postcolonial studies, development, religious studies, and of course anthropology.

Continue reading