The Funeral Casino

The Funeral Casino: Meditation, Massacre, and Exchange with the Dead in Thailand

Alan Klima
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7sw52
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  • Book Info
    The Funeral Casino
    Book Description:

    The Funeral Casinois a heretical ethnography of the global age. Setting his book within Thailand's pro-democracy movement and the street massacres that accompanied it, Alan Klima offers a strikingly original interpretation of mass-mediated violence through a study of funeral gambling and Buddhist meditation on death.

    The fieldwork for the book began in 1992, when a freewheeling market of illegal "massacre-imagery" videos blossomed in Bangkok on the very site where, days earlier, for the third time in two decades, a military-controlled government had killed scores of unarmed pro-democracy protesters. Such killings and their subsequent representation have lent force to Thailand's transition from military control to a "media-financial complex." Probing the ways in which death is marketed, visualized, and remembered through practices both local and global, Klima inverts conventional relationships between ethnography and theory through a compelling narrative that reveals a surprising new direction available to anthropology and critical theory.

    Ethnography here engages with the philosophy of activism and the politics of memory, media representation of violence, and globalization. In focusing on the particular array of tactics in Thai Buddhism and protest politics for connecting death and life, past and present, this book unveils a vivid and haunting picture of community, responsibility, and accountability in the new world order.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2496-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. NOTE ON TRANSCRIPTION AND MONETARY CONVERSION
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    In Bangkok’s upscale Royal Hotel, Channel 11 is taping a talk show, a special memorial edition of “Looking from Different Perspectives,” theMaung Dang Moomshow. Three years before, here in the Royal Hotel in 1992, prodemocracy protesters had holed up until the bitter end of a month of street marches against an unelected general who had taken the office of prime minister. Here, under the beaded strings of glittering lights hanging from the atrium, they had set up their field hospital and morgue for those shot by the soldiers. Back then, the video cameras were not deployed smartly for...

  7. PART I The Passed
    • CHAPTER 2 The New World BANGKOK AND THE WORLD ORDER WITHOUT HISTORY
      (pp. 31-52)

      October 14, 1991, was a curious day in Thai history, when two histories collided as if by some divine plan or irony. On the one hand, it was the opening day of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings, the triennial foray of the Washington-based agencies out into third-world conference centers, which that year was hosted in Bangkok. It was to be the first such World Bank and IMF meeting since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Arguably, it was to be the first World Bank meeting of the new world order. On the other hand, in a bizarre...

    • CHAPTER 3 Revolting History THE NECROMANTIC POWER OF PUBLIC MASSACRES
      (pp. 53-88)

      World Bank delegates prowled the electric illuminations of Patpong Alley. Meandering through its arcades of sumptuary excess, they perused the sidewalk maze of outdoor stalls that sell counterfeit first-world merchandise, and sampled the indoor sights of simulated sex in the go-go bars. Patpong Alley was, on the eve of the 1991 World Bank meetings (as it was every night, always returning), a space of violation: of sexual propriety, of underclass bodies, of children, and of intellectual property rights. This last violation, one at the very heart of what was at stake for the first world in this new world order,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Bloodless Power THE MORAL ECONOMY OF THE THAI CROWD
      (pp. 89-121)

      One of the first things that the government installed by the National Peace Keeping Council did, after the February 1991 coup, was lower the steep import tariff on cars. It was a bone thrown to the Bangkok monied class, who were eager to get their own personal vehicles out on the streets and who at first almost seemed to tolerate a military takeover rather than remain under the corruption of political parties who had purchased state power at an average rate of 200–300 baht per villager’s vote.

      On February 23, 1991, the army seized all mass-media installations. The prime...

    • CHAPTER 5 Repulsiveness of the Body Politic AN ECONOMICS OF THE BLACK MAY MASSACRE
      (pp. 122-166)

      Estimates for the year’s GNP growth were scaled back from 8.1 percent to 7.3 percent by Merrill Lynch’s Asia-Pacific desk, while Bangkok Bank forecast 7.0 percent, down from 8.9 percent, and other local forecasters put it down even further, below 7 percent.²

      The stock exchange of Thailand sank 8 percent, and went into a day-by-day tailspin to reach a yearlong low. Liquidity evaporated as stock analysts forecast a pullout of foreign investment. Siam City Bank credit card department predicted it would be a long time before forgetting set in: “Maybe in three to five years, people will forget the inhumane...

  8. PART II Kamma
    • CHAPTER 6 The Charnel Ground VISIONS OF DEATH IN BUDDHIST ASCESIS AND THE REDEMPTION OF MECHANICAL REPRODUCTION
      (pp. 169-230)

      Why did the market of massacre on Ratchadamnern Avenue—the corpse photos, videos, relics, and even the spiritual economy of exchange and offerings to the spirits of the dead—have such a short shelf life? The shock effects ran deep. The traffic in death images was brisk. And the political tides turned in a way that seemed miraculous, given the impossible situation in which the antimilitary forces found themselves at the time of General Suchinda’s first swearing in. It seems that it is only with the death of people that the power to change things is armed. They must die....

    • CHAPTER 7 The Funeral Casino A MINDFUL ECONOMY
      (pp. 231-290)

      For change to come, it seems, someone must die. Only catastrophe can work the magic of necromancy on history. This is something any number of “third hands” in the Black May situation implicitly knew. There must be death, it seems, in the gift economy of historical agency—a life-and-death exchange between the living and the dead.

      And yet the long-term effects in the exchange of acts and their return show that the revolting history of sacrifice never works out the way people intend it. It is almost as though it would have been better if no one had died at...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 291-304)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 305-312)
  11. Index
    (pp. 313-317)