Ritual works and practices: a case study from a Muslim community in Cambodia


  • Ing-Britt Trankell Uppsala University


Ritual -- Study, Muslims -- Cambodia, Islam -- Ritual, Cham (Southeast Asian people), Cults, Healing, Islam and state, Politics and Islam, Spirits, Mediums, Spirit possession, Party of Democratic Kampuchea


The function of the ritual is to assert a transcendental power over everyday experience and rituals therefore tend to be formalized, repetitive and conservative events. The purpose of this paper is to show the importance for ritual studies of ritualised strategies for the negotiation of power and influence. Here, research on a spirit possession cult among the Muslim Cham in Cambodia will serve as an empirical basis for a discussion of the open-ended and unbounded features of ritual in contemporary society, since the performances of this cult may be seen both as a kind of "state ritual" and as exorcism. Through the cult, the Cham tend to take refuge in their memories of the distant past rather than in their more immediate memories of terror and political violence, during the civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime. Rephrased as songs of the spirits, the present and the past intermingle in narrating the difficulties, the conflicts and the struggle in the world of the spirits who live next to, and mingle in, the world of ordinary human beings.



How to Cite

Trankell, I.-B. (2003). Ritual works and practices: a case study from a Muslim community in Cambodia. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 18, 243–254. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67294