Synopses & Reviews
In the Place of Origins
tells the tale of modernity in Northern Thailand, discerning its oblique signs in the performances of contemporary spirit mediums. In a world driven by the twin fantasies of pastness and newness, Rosalind C. Morris reveals that spirit mediumship is not simply a theater of atavistic tendency but an arena in which it is possible to read the relationships between new forms of representation and subjectivity, as well as new modes of magic and political power.
and#9;Through her careful examination of the transformations of spirit mediumship wrought by the mass media, Morris takes readers into the world of the northern Thai past to discover the anticipations of future histories. In this process, she finds new objects for anthropological inquiry, including romantic love and epistolary poetry. She then turns her eye toward the relationships between commodification and prosaic form and photography and the discourses of gendered and national identity. Attending to these issues as they manifest themselves in the practices of mediums, Morris describes both the mundane activities of spirit mediums and the grand ambitions to political authority that are embodied in the increasingly spectacular forms of possession that are becoming so popular with both tourists and local culture brokers. In the Place of Origins traverses this ground with accounts of right-wing militarism and ritual revival during the 70s, and of the democracy movement of 1992, when a global mass media was galvanized by images of military repression and the spectacle of traditional ritual power in cursing. Finally, considering the claims that mediums make to magical power in the face of both AIDS and the Asian economic crisis, Morris reveals the potency of extrajudicial forms of power and violence in the late modern era.
and#9;This provocative study will interest anthropologists, historians, Asianists, and those involved in gender, performance, media, and literary studies.
"Traveling from spirit mediumship to the ethnography of the finance capital market, "In the Place of Origins" combines theoretical bravura with brilliant narrative skill. As it comments on ethnographic self-fashioning in Thailand, it also examines the mediumship of disciplinary ethnography, and the alterity it so anxiously seeks to expell. This is a text of dazzling instructive simplicity."--Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Columbia University
A sophisticated, wide-ranging, theoretical account of how spirit mediums mediate the Thai experience of capitalist modernity.
For more than three decades, artist William Kentridge has explored in his work the nature of subjectivity, the possibilities of revolution, the Enlightenment’s legacy in Africa, and the nature of time itself. At the same time, his creative work has stretched the boundaries of the very media he employs. Though his pieces have allowed viewers to encounter the traditions of landscape and self-portraiture, the limits of representation and the possibilities for animated drawing, and the labor of art, a guide to understanding the full scope of his art has been available until now.
For five days, Kentridge sat with Rosalind C. Morris to talk about his work. The result—That Which Is Not Drawn—is a wide-ranging conversation and deep investigation into the artist’s techniques and into the psychic and philosophical underpinnings of his body of work. In these pages, Kentridge explains the key concerns of his art, including the virtues of bastardy, the ethics of provisionality, the nature of translation and the activity of the viewer. And together, Kentridge and Morris trace the migration of images across his works and consider the possibilities for a revolutionary art that remains committed to its own transformation.
“That’s the thing about a conversation,” Kentridge reflects. “The activity and the performance, whether it’s the performance of drawing or the performance of speech and conversation, is also the engine for new thoughts to happen. It’s not just a report of something you know.” And here, in this engaging dialogue, we at last have a guide to the continually exciting, continually changing work of one of our greatest living artists.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -370) and index.
About the Author
William Kentridge is one of most prominent contemporary artists in the world, best known for his animated films based on charcoal drawings and his artistic work with books.Rosalind C. Morris is professor of anthropology and former associate director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia University. She is also the author of New Worlds from Fragments: Film, Ethnography, and the Representation of Northwest Coast Cultures and In the Place of Origins: Modernity and Its Mediums in Northern Thailand.
Table of Contents
Note on Transcription x
1 Writing, Exchange, Translation: A Poetics of the Modern 13
2 Ruin, or, What the New City Remembers 55
3 First, Forgetting 80
4 The Appearance of Order 107
5 The Secret of the Dish 150
6 Transmissions, or, the Appearance of Culture 181
7 Representations: Locality and the Spirit of Democracy 240
8 Outside, Eyeless, and on Fire: The Apotheosis of Representation 287
9 After All Else: The End of Mediumship? 332