Cross-Cultural Seminar: Oscar Salemink

Oscar Salemink, Professor of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen opens the new seminar series with a paper on "Sex and the Temple: Interlocking categorizations of sexuality, gender and the sacred in post-secular Vietnam".


In this presentation I shall explore how the categories of the ‘religious' and the ‘sacred' are constructed, transgressed and re-constructed in religious ritual in Vietnam, with reference to transgender and (trans)sexual practices within ritual time-spaces. Against the backdrop of an efflorescence of religious practice brought out by the seeming ubiquity of pilgrimages, festivals and other ritual and religious events in post-Reform Vietnam, I look at ways in which transgender and transsexual categories denote religious boundaries and simultaneously offer privileged conduits of communication between this world and the other world within the ritual time-spaces of village festivals, Buddhist pilgrimages, and spirit possession practices associated with Daoist and Confucian cosmologies. In my presentation I pay particular attention to the co-occurrence and articulation of religious, sexual, entertainment and material desires through sexualized transgender dance, music, juggling and bingo performances during two ritual events: a village festival and a temple festival at a Buddhist pilgrimage site in southern Vietnam. I shall argue that such ritual time-spaces constitute privileged arenas for the expression of sexual identities that are usually repressed or hidden in everyday life. I juxtapose the sexual exuberance of spirit mediums to the professed non-sexual (but gendered) ethic of asceticism and abstinence among Buddhist monks. In so doing I hope to shed light on how the boundaries between the sacred and the profane are drawn, transgressed and re-drawn in Vietnam's post-secular ‘religioscape', and how that affects the valuation of what is seen as legitimately ‘religious' in contemporary Vietnam. 

Cross-Cultural Seminars at ToRS

Every semester, six invited speakers will present a scholarly paper for academic staff and graduate students at ToRS (and other invited guests). The papers will be based on material from one of the regions covered by ToRS, but will - thematically or theoretically - also have a strong cross-cultural appeal. The aim is to encourage interest across disciplines at ToRS - and thereby strengthen scholarly discussion and cooperation - and to give us all a chance to get acquainted with scholars from outside the department.

Each presentation will last 45 minutes, followed by 30 minutes of discussion chaired by a person from ToRS. The seminars will take place every second Thursday from 15.15pm to 16.30pm in room U6. After each seminar, we will go for drinks and possibly dinner with the speaker. All participants are invited for this, but expenses will have to be covered by participants themselves.

Organizers: Andreas Bandak, Mikkel Bille and Lars Højer

September 15

Oscar Salemink (University of Copenhagen)
Sex and the Temple: Interlocking categorizations of sexuality, gender and the sacred in post-secular Vietnam

September 29

Brian Moeran (Copenhagen Business School)
Japanese Merchants of Culture: The Publishing Business in Japan

October 13

Ayo Wahlberg (University of Copenhagen)
Banking viability - reproduction and the sperm crisis in China

November 10

Nils Bubandt (Aarhus University)
Sacred Money. Faith and Finance in a Global Sufi Order

November 24

Dietrich Jung (University of Southern Denmark)
Max Weber and Sheikh Ahmad ibn Zayni al-Dahlan: Shaping modern knowledge on Islam

December 8

Michel Hockx (School of Oriental and African Studies, London)
Postsocialist Publishing: Internet Literature in China