“Disreputable Magicians,” the Dark Destroyer, and the Trickster Lord: Reflections on Semai Religion and a Possible Common Religious Base in South and Southeast Asia
Robert Knox DENTAN
Recent studies of globalization tend to stress its novelties, especially new
patterns of consumption and mediated communication (e.g., Appadurai
1996). But the view from the margins and from the lowest social strata of
globalizing states seems less novel. This paper explores the ways in
which the impact of anciently emergent slaveholding despotisms and
their colonies seems refracted in the cosmology of southeast Asian
peoples as a stupid terrorist storm god, whose literally bestial power is
available to humans who can surrender to it in an almost erotic ecstasy of
yearning and desire. These cosmologies, the paper suggests, constitute a
still relevant, nuanced critique of world-conquering globalization.
We see them only as eccentrics or as survivors … locked into a religiose
fantasy-world; they are quaint historical fossils … But where social or
political assumptions or enquiries into value are at issue, then the answer
must be very much more complex.

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