From Flesh To Fantasy: Contemporary Conceptions Of The Chinese Afterlife In Spirit-Travelogues And Mythological Theme Parks
My dissertation analyzes the influence of conceptions and representations of the religious afterlife on individual and collective action in contemporary Taiwan. The critical study of representations of the Chinese afterlife has occurred almost exclusively in their anthropological locus classicus: the ancestral tablet, funerary ritual, and the underworld (Ahern 1973; Wolf 1974; Cohen 1988). My research, which builds on these foundtional inquiries, focuses on two alternative and fecund fields of otherworldly (re)production and representation: recent textual depictions of the afterlife and mythological theme parks. In this study, I will address both textual sources and ethnographic data to launch an inquiry into three key research questions concerning conceptions of the afterlife in Taiwan today: namely, (1) the struggle between individual desire and collective concerns, (2) the applicability and adaptability of traditional models of the religious afterlife, and (3) the processes by which representations of the afterlife illuminate and influence contemporary social systems. My analytical framework – inspired by practice theory, psychoanalytic thought, and psychological anthropology – illuminates an otherwise overlooked integrity in conventional Chinese conceptions of the afterlife and reveals the emotional correlates of their continuities and changes in current Taiwanese society.
dissertation or thesis