Asian Ethnology is dedicated to the promotion of scholarly research on the peoples and cultures of Asia. It began in China as Folklore Studies in 1942 and later moved to Japan where its name was changed to Asian Folklore Studies. It is edited and published at Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, with the cooperation of Boston University.
Included in this Issue
In the Hindu Balinese imagination, demons (buta kala) are ambiguous figures of the crossroads. Across Indonesia, the display of giant demon puppets (ogoh-ogoh) has increasingly become part of the lunar Hindu New Year celebrations. Drawing on fieldwork among the Balinese minority on the island of Lombok, I argue that the display of demon puppets permits Hindu Balinese youth to unleash “wild” demonic forces. Building on Kaja M. McGowan’s (2008) notion of Balinese “internal aesthetics,” I propose that the puppets serve as potential sites or receptacles for the demonic. Just as each demon puppet mobilizes a display of fun and volatility, so it provokes passions and frequently becomes embroiled in conflict. Demon puppets are designed to amuse and dazzle by their outrageous appearance, yet they unsettle the porous boundaries between “religion” and “entertainment.” By examining the politics surrounding the annual ogoh-ogoh procession in Cakranegara, I show that their display acquires urgency in a multireligious context.
The American Flag in Kim’s Spirit Shrine
A notable feature of contemporary Hwanghae-do (now a region in North Korea) shamanism in Incheon, west of Seoul, is a body of material symbols of American power that are familiar to Koreans—such as the Stars and Stripes or the portrait of General Douglas MacArthur. Focusing on the small American flag that Kim Kŭm-hwa, a renowned Hwanghae-origin shaman, brought home from her tour of the United States in 1982 during which she performed kut, Korea’s shamanic rite, at the Knoxville World Fair and the Smithsonian Museum, this article investigates how this object came to join Kim’s spirit shrine as an auspicious artifact and what it says about her eminent yet turbulent career experience. It asks what sort of power the American flag displays and how this power is different from what we habitually understand as “American power.”
Heonik Kwon, Jun Hwan Park
The Time of Red Snowfall
Each year the Nuosu, a Tibeto-Burman group of Southwest China, celebrate their Fire Festival with vibrant displays that evoke the myth-historical blunder of a hero killing a spirit. To atone for this blunder, they compete in arts and sports before spectators, judges, and the sky god, who receives their displays as ritual blandishments and expresses his satisfaction by sparing lives. These two-way displays typically continue until Nuosu pay their sacrificial debt to the sky god through the ritual for “the descent and exchange of the soul.” But many Nuosu approach the Fire Festival differently in the northeastern Liangshan mountains, where they seek to avoid summoning red snowfall, a euphemism that refers to a generations-old war, extreme bloodshed, and perhaps even the origins of humankind. Here, Nuosu call their sacrifices to the sky god “turning back the enemy” and move their competitions to unconventional days that fall outside of the Fire Festival’s celebratory window. By steering this season of social and cosmic renewal in a prosperous direction, Nuosu across Liangshan engage in worldmaking acts that show the conceptual value of the anthropology of display.