Supplementary Material

Performing Alterity of Desire: Bodiliness and Sexuality in Spirit Mediumship in Northeast Thailand

Visisya Pinthongvijayakul

ABSTRACT This article questions the way sexuality has been conceived as constructionism by previous studies of mediumship. I focus on female practitioners in northeast Thailand, seeing in their bodies the potential for the enactment of heterogeneous modes of desire that exceeds the bounds of inquiry set by representationalist frames. This perspective demands a new set of tools that will better resonate with the expressions of the practitioners’ bodies. Engaging with affect theory in the tradition of Brian Massumi, the article proposes an important shift from discourse-based critique of Thai spirit possession to an approach that accounts for bodily sex and desire, beyond constructions and categories. I argue that spirit mediumship gives rein to a localized register of desire and sexuality that eludes discursive normalization. Ritual performance by spirit mediums materially vocalizes an expanded and more diverse repertoire of desire. Moreover, I take a view of the body as an undifferentiated object to argue, against the hierarchical dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, that the spatiality of the full body is a plane on whose flows the sacred and erotic intensities commingle. In mediumistic ritual, religious and sexual ontologies melt into the same bodily organs and zones of skin. [spirit mediumship, female body, desire, sexuality, affect theory, Northeast Thailand]

Dancing at Phaya Lae’s shrine at Norng Pla Thao Park on the occasion of the sixth lunar month festival.
Possession trance at a shrine reconsecration ceremony at a medium’s house.
Cross-gendered possession as means of gaining recognition and power as well as of transgressing categories of gender identity.



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