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The production of possession: Spirits and the multinational corporation in Malaysia

Abstract

This chapter explores different interpretations of spirit possession episodes in multinational factories based in Malaysia. These interpretations are contrasted to the corporate view that, by using the cosmopolitan medical model, converts workers into patients. The chapter seeks to illuminate general questions regarding the connections among affliction, cultural experience, and hegemony in the process of social change. It considers the implications of the scientific medical model that converts workers into patients, and the consequences this therapeutic approach holds for mending the souls of the afflicted. From the early 1970s onward, agricultural and industrialization programs induced the large-scale influx of young rural Malay men and women to enter urban schools and manufacturing plants set up by multinational corporations. With urbanization and industrialization, spirit possession became overnight the affliction of young, unmarried women placed in modern organizations, drawing the attention of the press and the scholarly community.

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