Emily NG is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, University of Amsterdam. Her ethnographic work in China has addressed cosmopolitical imaginations in contemporary spirit mediumship and charismatic Christianity, as well as intergenerational experiences of mind and madness in psychiatric and religious settings. Recently, she has been exploring cultural-aesthetic figurations of the rural as part of the project ‘Imagining the Rural in a Globalizing World’ (RURALIMAGINATIONS, 2018–2023), which received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 772436).
This essay describes the cosmological role of Mao in ritual and spirit mediumship in rural China. It considers the occulted forces hosted by the Chairman’s image and words, across movements of display, concealment, and circulation. Here, the Party-state has a cosmic double, and Maoist anti-religious policies are not what they seem.