Making “Unofficial” Sacred Space: Spirit Mediums and House Temples in Singapore
Geographical Review 106(2)
American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?
Terence Heng: To explore the ways in which different spaces that are considered sacred are established and maintained.
American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?
Terence Heng: My study helps individuals better understand the spiritual lives of individuals who practice Chinese religion in Singapore. In particular, it explores the different ways in which individuals set up and maintain “house temples” – temples that exist in spaces normally reserved for residential purposes.
American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Terence Heng: There are many studies on sacred spaces and the politics of sacred spaces. Some scholars have also studied Chinese religious practices in high-rise, high-density flats in Singapore, but few have considered the practices of spirit mediums in this respect. My work extends on these studies by exploring the role of spirit mediums and their bodies in creating sacred space.
American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
Terence Heng: 1. The focus on the body and comportment of a spirit medium when in a trance overrides the need for formal physical structures or temples.
American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
Terence Heng: There is a need to consider the cartographies of the body and its related adornments, in relation to the space that it inhabits and shapes.
American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?
Terence Heng: 1. Through my visual research, the photographs give a more nuanced and aesthetically impactful understanding of the geographies of sacred space
2. My research expands on the understanding of sacred space in urban areas
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