Dec 4, 2013

"Terminally Haunted: Aviation Ghosts, Hybrid Buddhist Practices, and Disaster Aversion Strategies Amongst Airport Workers in Myanmar and Thailand"

Jane Ferguson, Research Fellow, Department of Anthropology, University of Sydney

Much of what is written about airports is from the perspective of a visionary architect, or from the experience of the cosmopolitan traveler. Airport workers, aside from their intimate knowledge of the airport space, know something about the terminals that their designers and itinerant occupants do not: how they are haunted. In Yangon, Myanmar and Bangkok, Thailand, airport workers exchange occupational ghost lore regarding sightings, motives, and histories of spirits within aviation. They also make use of hybrid Buddhist practices to ward off danger from airport spaces, and to make their own future travels safe and propitious as well. In addition to challenging the notion of the airport as the ‘non-place,’ this paper will demonstrate that ecumenical practices and hauntings crucially frame techno-modernity, uniting local and trans-regional culture with the global semantic legibility of the logistic superstructure of passenger aviation. 

Jane M Ferguson is a Research Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. She completed her PhD at Cornell University in Anthropology, having carried out over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in a community of Shan insurgents and their affiliates at the Burma-Thai border. Her research interests include ethnicity and war, popular culture production, and ethnographies of transportation logistics. 


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