Drinking with deities and hungry ghosts

This study examines the phenomenon of social drinking in the small and remote community of Lamga in Athang gewog in Bhutan and it is studied through the lens of communication scholarship. The key research objective of this study is to describe the symbolic sequence of the toasting and drinking ritual and interpret the cultural meanings that ultimately help identify the sacred object of the communication ritual.

Drawing from the cultural view of communication and using the cultural discourse analysis as the methodological framework, social drinking in Bhutan can be understood as a structured sequence of symbolic acts – in which, firstly, there is the acknowledgment of non-human denizens such as wandering spirits, local deities and hungry ghosts that are believed to co-habit the same space as humans. Second, participation and performance in social drinking is a reaffirmation of the sense of community, social order and of interdependence of the various phenomena that come together at a specific place and time.

Third, it reveals the possibility of sacred time, where ordinary people’s lives are dictated by the spiritual rigour and not the clock, event or nature as expoused in the Geography of Time.

The significance of this study is that it looks at the social phenomenon from the lens of a communication scholarship. It, thus, fills a gap in, and contributes to, the sociological studies in and on Bhutan

The presentation can be downloaded from here:

Wangchuk_Drinking with deities and hungry ghosts June 12

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