The Newsletter 68 Summer 2014

Engaging the spirit world

Niels Mulder

<p>Reviewed publication: <br>Endres, K.W. &amp; A. Lauser (eds.) 2011. <em>Engaging the Spirit World; Popular Beliefs and Practices in Modern Southeast Asia</em>, New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, ISBN 9780857453587 (hb)</p><p>As the contributions to this collection rekindled my early experiences ‘in the field’, reading through the ten chapters of <em>Engaging the Spirit World</em> was great fun. As the greenhorn I was, I laughed at my initial encounter with ‘spirits’ (<em>phii</em>) in Thailand, which so upset my girlfriend that she slapped me in the face. It spelled the end to my fun. I not only learned to take beliefs seriously – whether western, eastern, religious, or political – but also to realise that for the believers concerned these represented their living experience. In that sense, beliefs are as tangible as a bowl of rice and have to be explored concretely before we, ‘servants of science’, put any ‘theoretical’ <em>à priori</em> on top of them.</p>