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Some Reflections on the Death of a Portuguese Star
Mattijs van de Port

In his contribution on the recently deceased singer of the Portuguese fado, Amalia Rodrigues, Mattijs van de Port analyses the many eulogies that appeared in the Portuguese media for the woman `who made Portuguese mothers cry'. Amalia had become a con­troversial figure during her life due to her close association with the Salazar dictatorship and the ambivalent appreciation of her art. In the days after her death, however, she was appropriated by many different sections of Portuguese society. Communists, elites, immigrants and gays all declared Amalia to be theirs and theirs only. The author shows how she embodies the absence that is at the core of every ideological edifice and could thus trigger the hope and desire of a fulfillment of what all these groups are lacking. (back)


Pir Sahib Altaf Hussein

Spot en parodie in een Pakistaanse persoonlijkheidscultus
Oskar Verkaaik

Oskar Verkaaik discusses the relation between mocking and devotion in an article about Pir Sahib Altaf Hussein, the political and spiritual leader of the Muhajir popular movement in Pakistan. Defying the saying that `who ever mocks has lost his belief', Verkaaik shows that humor is an essential part in the cult around Pir Sahib, producing a form of cultural intimacy between the leader and his followers. Laughing about the venerated leader, understanding the parodies of his political performances, strengthens group cohesion. (back)

A Kingly Cult
Thailand’s Guiding Lights in a Dark Era
Irene Stengs

In her contribution Irene Stengs compares the simultaneous veneration for two Thai Kings and investigates how the two cults interrelate. There is a large overlap in the needs and emotions that underlie the veneration for both Kings, and hence she speaks of a `kingly cult'. The cult has emerged in an era that the Thai perceive as `a dark age'. Political incompetence, scandalous behavior of monks and the Asian economic crisis have made many Thai to put their hope on the Kings. In the case of the historical King Chulalongkorn people worship his spirit, allowing to approach the King by anyone at anytime. In the case of King Bhumibol, the present monarch, the living person is worshipped as his powers are meritious for the country as a whole. Interestingly, in the collective imagination the two Kings become increasingly more alike. In the cult their blessing powers merge to help both individuals and the nation. (back)

Death of a Media-Styled Secular Saint
Joke Hermes, with Merel Noordhuizen

The death of Diana, princess of Wales, in September 1997, was mourned on an unprecedented scale. She became a symbol of warmth and humanity, that British society, apparently, lacked. Joke Hermes asks what it was about Diana that she was, for a short while, a modern day saint. Why and how did the media become so involved in what can only be called a hype? Both the construction of the image of Diana and the media logic underpinning her mourning are analysed in this article. (back)

The Dictator’s Two Bodies
Hidden Powers of State in the Dominican Imagination
Lauren Derby

Lauren Derby presents a detailed analysis of the magical aura that surrounded Rafael Trujillo, the dictator who ruled the Dominican Republic with an iron fist in the first half of this century. The syncretic religious culture of the republic provides the background against which it is demonstrated how members of different segments of society, all in their own way, believed in and contributed to Trujillo's almost unlimited supernatural and secular powers. (back)

‘Post-Communist Personality Cults’
The Limits of Humour and Play
Justin 1'Anson-Sparks and Maruska Svasek

Justin 1'Anson-Sparks and Maruska Svasek show us how the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia also meant a surprising recurrence of memories on Stalin's personality cult, a `comeback' that largely took place in the form of a satirical board game. In their vivid description and analysis of the game the authors focus on the importance of humour when reflecting upon the past. Their essay demonstrates the interplay between the breaking of taboos and present-day politics in post-Communist Czech society. (back)

Virtual Idols, Our Future Love
Alan Sondheim

In the last contribution of this issue, Alan Sondheim takes the reader into the weird world of computer animated figures and introduces us to Kyoko Date, a Japanese virtual idol, created in 1996. The author reveals something of the worldwide emotional and erotic traffic that virtual idols provoke. He not only invites us to reconsider the relationship between object of devotion and devotee, but also to acknowledge the importance of virtual dimensions of human idols. (back)