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Baby Ghosts: Child Spirits and Contemporary Conceptions of Childhood in Thailand

  • Megan Sinnott

Abstract

The currently popular practice of propitiating, or ‘adopting’, child spirits in Thailand reveals an ambivalent attitude towards childhood. According to Buddhist scholars on childhood, Buddhist conceptions of children do not differentiate children in significant ways from adults in terms of their relative purity or innocence, as both children and adults possess countless lifetimes of karma; children are thus agentive beings, although not yet fully realised as adults. The child ghosts reflect the complex, competing conceptions of childhood, where they are both valuable resources to be deployed in the assistance of their families, and vulnerable beings in need of adult caretaking. Child ghosts are markers of both material and sentimental resources for their adoptive parents, or ‘guardians’. This article explores representations of child ghosts in popular media, and investigates child ghost propitiation practices through interviews with child ghost guardians. In addition, an overview is provided of the various categories of child ghosts, including kumanthong, kuman-thep, kuman-phrai, luk-krok, and rak-yom.

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TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia
  • ISSN: 2051-364X
  • EISSN: 2051-3658
  • URL: /core/journals/trans-trans-regional-and-national-studies-of-southeast-asia
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