The event was featured a discussion based on the two books “Capitalism Magic Thailand: Modernity with Enchantment” and “Deities and Divas: Queer Ritual Specialists in Myanmar, Thailand, and Beyond”.

In “Capitalism Magic Thailand,” Jackson explores the emergence of new cults of wealth, ritually empowered amulets, and professional spirit mediumship in Thailand’s religious landscape. The book uncovers the paradoxical coexistence of magical rituals alongside religious fundamentalism, presenting an argument that modernity can produce new forms of enchantment. Through an analysis of Thai society, the book reveals how cults of wealth, amulets, and spirit mediumship have merged, sacralizing the market and wealth production.

“Deities and Divas” takes us on a journey through queer cultures and professional spirit mediumship in Southeast Asia. The book presents ethnographic accounts of queer individuals who engage in religious rituals as mediums for deities and spirits. These narratives highlight the complex interplay between capitalism, new media, and the formation of modern gay, trans, and spirit medium communities. By transcending the conventional dichotomy of religion versus secularism, the book provides new perspectives in transnational cultural, religious, and queer studies.
These two closely related books offer two sides of the same phenomenon. While “Capitalism Magic Thailand” explores the transformation of spirit possession rituals into cults of wealth, “Deities and Divas” delves into the rise of queer spirit mediums within these very same cults. Together, these books provide a comprehensive understanding of the interconnectedness between capitalism, enchantment, religious practices, and queer identities, presenting a nuanced perspective on this phenomenon.

Peter A. Jackson, the author, and editor of the respective books, lead the discussion taking place on 15 July 2023 from 4:30 to 6:00 pm at SEA Junction. Following the discussion, there was an engaging Q&A session for audiences to further explore the issues.

Photo credit: Kelly Khin