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Contribution to Collected Edition

Spirit mediums and secular / religious divides in Singapore


Dean,  Kenneth
Guests and External Members, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Dean, K. (2019). Spirit mediums and secular / religious divides in Singapore. In P. van der Veer, & K. Dean (Eds.), The Secular in South, East, and Southeast Asia (pp. 51-81). Cha: Palgrave Macmillan. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-89369-3_4.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0005-F392-3
This paper explores the challenge of spirit mediums to the secular project in China and Singapore. Different modes of human flourishing (Taylor in A Secular Age, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007) provided by Neo-Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism are examined in the context of the rise of relatively autonomous village governance in late Imperial China. These practices were challenged by spirit possession, which took place in temples at the center of village life. These tensions have continued in the age of modern secular states. In many parts of rural China, spirit mediums still contest the secular project, and in Singapore, spirit mediums have even more space to innovate in a multi-cultural urban context, generating new and hybrid ritual forms that exceed secular as well as cultural frames.