Sacred Commodities


  • John T. Giordano Assumption University, Thailand


This presentation will examine the circulation of sacred images as commodities. In urban areas in Southeast Asia, the trade in images of Buddhist, Brahmanist and Animist deities in the form of amulets is very popular, as is the trade in these sacred images in the tourist trade. The traditional manner of approaching this phenomenon is to impose traditional academic theories of capitalist exchange, commodity fetishism or spiritual decay. But this approach condemns the negative aspects of this phenomenon without appreciating its more authentic aspects. This paper wishes to show how the religious “eclecticism” found in Southeast Asia, is also present in the trade of sacred commodities. The paradoxes present in the commodification of sacred images also provide them with a renewed possibility to contribute to types of cultural redemption.