1st Edition

Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts Spiritual Places in Urban Spaces

By Terence Heng Copyright 2021
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    How do individuals inscribe their spiritual identities and diasporic ethnicities in the city? Through a series of sociological and photographic essays, Terence Heng maps the various rituals, collectives, individuals and events that characterise Chinese religion practices in Singapore. From spirit mediums to the Hungry Ghost Festival, each chapter engages with the social, the spatial and the ephemeral, and in so doing it will explore the significance and relevance of Chinese religion in a secular nation-state; reveal the strategies and tactics used by diasporic individuals to perform and retain their identities; uncover the importance of flow and fluidity in the making of sacred space; and evidence the value and efficacy of the use of photographs in social research. Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts is a ground-breaking exploration into the intersections between visual sociology, cultural geography and creative photographic practice. A visual monograph that gives equal importance to image and text, it interrogates the tensions between sacred and profane, official and unofficial, state and individual, physical and spiritual, peeling away the myriad layers of the spiritual imagination.

    1. Introduction

    2. Visualising the (Spiritual) City

    3. The Social Dead, The Agentic Spirit

    4. The Hungry Ghost Festival and Aesthetic Juxtaposition

    5. Tang-ki as Embodied Spiritual Capital and Arbiters of Sacred Space

    6. Intimate Sacred Spaces – The Body and Home

    7. The Ebb and Flow of Sacred Spaces

    8. Movement and Motion in Sacred Flowscapes

    9. Conclusion



    Terence Heng is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Liverpool. He is the author of Visual Methods in the Field: Photography for the Social Sciences (Routledge, 2016), and his work has been featured in Area, The Sociological Review, Cultural Geographies and Visual Communication. He is the 2015 winner of The Sociological Review's Prize for Outstanding Scholarship.

    "This stunning book takes a new step for Visual Sociology. Terence Heng has created a remarkable visual monograph. He adeptly brings together his scholarship as a sociologist of religion with a remarkable set of images which engage possibilities of documentary photography to bring us up close to the embodied and performative realities of everyday domestic and public spatialities of Chinese religion in Singapore. Of Gods, Gifts and Ghosts will be a deeply insightful text for researchers and students of visual sociology and the sociology of religion."

    Sarah Pink, Professor and Director, Emerging Technologies Research Lab, Monash University, Australia

    "This book is both beautifully visualised and beautifully written. It is a fascinating study of Chinese religion in Singapore which explores the visuality of religious material culture and the visual work of worship through ethnographic writing but also through a series of mostly colour photographs which are so much more than illustrations. Strikingly and thoughtfully composed, this is a work of visual sociology and geography at its most insightful."

    Gillian Rose, Professor of Human Geography, University of Oxford, UK