Stuart Earle Strange

Dec 10, 2022

Suspect Others

Spirit Mediums, Self-Knowledge, and Race in Multiethnic Suriname

University of Toronto Press 2021

Suspect Others: Spirit Mediums, Self-Knowledge, and Race in Multiethnic Suriname (U Toronto Press, 2021) explores how ideas of self-knowledge and identity arise from a unique set of rituals in Suriname, a postcolonial Caribbean nation rife with racial and religious suspicion. Amid competition for belonging, political power, and control over natural resources, Surinamese Ndyuka Maroons and Hindus look to spirit mediums to understand the causes of their successes and sufferings and to know the hidden minds of relatives and rivals alike. But although mediumship promises knowledge of others, interactions between mediums and their devotees also fundamentally challenge what devotees know about themselves, thereby turning interpersonal suspicion into doubts about the self.

Through a rich ethnographic comparison of the different ways in which Ndyuka and Hindu spirit mediums and their devotees navigate suspicion, Suspect Others shows how present-day Caribbean peoples come to experience selves that defy concepts of personhood inflicted by the colonial past. Stuart Earle Strange investigates key questions about the nature of self-knowledge, religious revelation, and racial discourse in a hyper-diverse society. At a moment when exclusionary suspicions dominate global politics, Suspect Others elucidates self-identity as a social process that emerges from the paradoxical ways in which people must look to others to know themselves.

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Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

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