Ethnography #9

Book Pages: 192 Illustrations: 9 illustrations Published: November 2019

Author: Alan Klima

Anthropology, Asian Studies > Southeast Asia, Sociology > Social Theory

As Alan Klima writes in Ethnography #9, “there are other possible starting places than the earnest realism of anthropological discourse as a method of critical thought.” In this experimental ethnography of capitalism, ghosts, and numbers in mid- and late-twentieth-century Thailand, Klima uses this provocation to deconstruct naive faith in the “real” and in the material in academic discourse that does not recognize that it is, itself, writing. Klima also twists the common narrative that increasing financial abstractions in economic culture are a kind of real horror story, entangling it with other modes of abstraction commonly seen as less “real,” such as spirit consultations, ghost stories, and haunted gambling. His unconventional, distinctive, and literary form of storytelling uses multiple voices, from ethnographic modes to a first-person narrative in which he channels Northern Thai ghostly tales and the story of a young Thai spirit. This genre alchemy creates strange yet compelling new relations between being and not being, presence and absence, fiction and nonfiction, fantasy and reality. In embracing the speculative as a writing form, Klima summons unorthodox possibilities for truth in contemporary anthropology.


“Alan Klima's ethnographic writing releases a middle zone, an in-between that haunts the kind of thought accreted by Euro-enlightenment. And it is beautifully done, unfolding, cascading, easing a shift in realism that starts by troubling a conventionally recognized real, material world and ends up dominated by the voice of a double, a possession. Ethnography #9 is an amazing and wonderful book by a masterful and compelling writer.” — Kathleen Stewart, coauthor of The Hundreds

“In Ethnography #9, ghosts dance with social theorists, and the spirit-possessed author juggles global financial tips along with winning lottery numbers. In Thailand after the financial crash, loan godmothers, gambling, and unhinging ghosts share the stage with World Bank prescriptions and market-hogging mega-marts. Alan Klima and his spirit familiar stage a wild experiment in telling the real by moving out of common sense.” — Anna Tsing, coeditor of Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene


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Price: $24.95
Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alan Klima is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis, and author of The Funeral Casino: Meditation, Massacre, and Exchange with the Dead in Thailand.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
1. The Ghost Manifesto  1
2. World Gothic  46
3. Betting on the Real  65
4. Prove It  88
5. Regendered Debt  95
6. Men and Our Money  101
7. The Godfathers  114
8. It Has All Happened Before  124
9. The Return of the Dead  132
10. Reversing the Mount  140
11. Deterritory  145
12. Everywhere and Nowhere  149
13. The End of the World  157
14. Fossil  165
Notes  171
Bibliography  177
Index  181
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Co-Winner of the 2020 Gregory Bateson Prize, presented by the Society for Cultural Anthropology

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0621-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0544-5
Funding Information This title is freely available in an open access edition thanks to the TOME initiative and the generous support of the University of California, Davis. Learn more at