Article Title

Powers of the Dead: Struggles over Paper Money Burning in Urban China


This paper explores how the Chinese customary ritual of burning paper money to commemorate the dead ancestors challenges the nature-culture dichotomy. The paper argues that the practice of burning paper money reflects a Chinese cosmology that is not based on a dichotomy between the living and the dead, instead, the dead is often mobilized to exert influential power over the living. The paper money that people use in such rituals are active actors that participates in people’s social, cultural and economic life. The paper also investigates how the conflict between government policy and traditional practice demonstrates that the modernists’ efforts to mobilize modern dichotomies have failed to triumph over the entanglement among networks of the living and the dead, the human and the spirit, the object and the subject, nature, culture, and super-nature.

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