Asian Ethnology 82-1 | article Demons and Gods on Display The Anthropology of Display and Worldmaking

Katherine Swancutt

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anthropology of display demons gods recursivity spirits worldmaking

Across Asia, display is central to the creative process of worldmaking. This issue introduces “the anthropology of display” as a subfield in its own right that illuminates how people, spirits, gods, demons, ghosts, and their ritual props, offerings, effigies, or emblems manifest their powers and presence. A display is not just the static or unmoving framing of an image that invites contemplation rather than participation; it may unfold as one of the many moving, lively, and performative parts in a public event that generates deeply recursive imaginaries of the cosmos. Bringing the anthropology of religion, magic, exchange, art, and performance into conversation with museum anthropology, this issue shows that display is often used to push at the edges of the social and cosmic order. People and spirits may harness the power of display to steer rituals, ceremonies, and festivals in their preferred directions. Displays of this sort may unleash moral ideals of cultural heritage and plurality, aesthetic deliberations about the future, and new anthropological ways of envisioning the human and otherworldly.