Rethinking Social Media as the Counterpublics: The Case of the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand
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This paper aims to identify the emergence of counterpublics in social media resulting from the contestation in the religious field of Phuket shrines, whose members encourage the continuity of a shamanic cult called “the Vegetarian Festival” which is an annual ceremony inherited among Chinese descendants in the locality since 1825. The process of conservation of the tradition, initiated by the collaboration between community leaders and local authorities in Phuket, especially by officials of municipalities and educational institutions, has not only brought the festival wide mass media coverage, but has also intensified the contestation between locality and national domain. During such process, the shamanic practices, which overlap with, but differs sharply from, the standard norms of Theravada Buddhism as the civic religion in Thai, the social media, particularly the internet-based SNS, has been transformed into counterpublics.
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