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Title: Size matters: History, marginality, and the politics of building big in a small community
Authors: Johnson, I.C. 
Issue Date: Mar-2011
Citation: Johnson, I.C. (2011-03). Size matters: History, marginality, and the politics of building big in a small community. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17 (1) : 116-134. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: I explore the way in which people living along the fringes of the nation-state assert a sense of cultural distinctiveness in a political environment marked by social and economic inequality. Since the 1970s, Thai Buddhists in the predominantly Malay and Muslim state of Kelantan, Malaysia, have been building large statues in their temple grounds. Through thinking about the history of these creations and the expansive political and economic encounters they forge, Kelantan's Thais reflect on their feelings of marginality. I demonstrate how statues and the trope of enormity that they encapsulate are important sources of cultural capital for a people at the extremities of national society. Statues centre marginality as an important component of cultural and ethnic identity. At the same time, these mammoth images of Chinese gods and Thai-styled Buddhas associate the community with local and global processes framed within a nuanced entanglement of past and present, religious and secular, political and banal. The associations I trace between materiality and marginality push theoretical arguments about marginalization a step further, pointing to a more reflexive, emergent understanding of marginality. © Royal Anthropological Institute 2011.
Source Title: Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
ISSN: 13590987
DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9655.2010.01672.x
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