Suspect Others: Spirit Mediums, Self-Knowledge, and Race in Multiethnic Suriname
Published: July 2021© 2021
300 Pages, 6.12 x 9.25 x 0.80 in, 10 b&w illustrations and 1 b&w map
Suspect Others 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.
1.Settlement and Self-Doubt
2.A Fragmented Unity: Hindu Selves, Doubt, and Shakti Ritual
3.Mediated Selves: Ndyuka Knowledge, Suspicion, and Revelation
5.Dreams at the Limits of Knowledge
6.Revealing Ironies of Racecraft
"‘No Friends.’ This windshield slogan popular in the anglophone Caribbean echoes the alternate visions of sociality and intimate mistrust that Suspect Others conjures in Suriname. Against the assumption that both healing and culture are methods of becoming whole, Stuart Earle Strange shows how Surinamese spiritual work and national belonging are modalities of making the self other. Suspect Others evokes this effect of intimate suspicion with masterful intensity. Theoretically complex and ethnographically rich, Strange’s work will make an impact on social theory and conceptions of selfhood for years to come."J. Brent Crosson, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Texas at Austin, and author of Experiments with Power: Obeah and the Remaking of Religion in Trinidad
“Suspect Others explores the ethnically and religiously complex world of Suriname, where seeking the revelations of mediums is common practice. Focusing on Maroon and Hindu communities and the mediums who serve them, Strange considers what mediumship reveals about the uncertainties that pervade Surinamese social life, arguing that clients’ suspicions about others produce knowledge of the self. This book is a welcome addition to the literature on Caribbean religions and on Maroon and Indo-Caribbean communities.” Aisha Khan, Associate Professor of Anthropology, New York University, and author of The Deepest Dye: Obeah, Hosay, and Race in the Atlantic World
“Stuart Earle Strange’s Suspect Others is a vivid contribution to anthropology, religious studies, diaspora studies, and philosophy. This study of Maroon spirit mediums and Hindu Shakti mediums in Suriname reveals a local consensus that every person, though only vaguely aware of it, is internally driven by multiple spirits and not by individual consciousness alone. Suspect Others is a unique and remarkable study of religion and race in a fascinating ethnographic setting.” J. Lorand Matory, Lawrence Richardson Distinguished Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Director of the Sacred Arts of the Black Atlantic Project, Duke University