No More Place for Us at the Temple: Contesting Religious Space and Identities of the Local People in Northern Thailand

  •  Ariya Svetamra    


This paper examines how local people who are excluded from the benefits of modernity and globalization are using the politics of religious space for contestation in the formation of local identities. The politics of religious space is concerned with contestation of meanings or social production of meanings of space. It emerges a space whereby the structures of power have been negotiated and contested. The excluded people choose to identify themselves as kha wat (temple’s slaves) or the guardians of Buddha’s relic for the assertion of their local subjects in their contestation. In conflicts over watershed management, the kha wat’s (temple’s slaves) identity is redefined as the guardians of nature in their environment discourse. This study contends that in this process, there is the resurgence of spirit-cults practices expressed through various collective religious practices.

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