How the hungry ghost mythology reconciles materialism and spirituality in Thai death rituals

Rungpaka Amy Hackley, Christopher Hackley

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Purpose – This paper aims to contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Asian consumer culture by exploring how hungry ghost death ritual in the Buddhist world reconciles spiritual asceticism and materialism.
Design/methodology/approach – This is an interpretive study that incorporates elements of visual semiotics, ethnography, and qualitative data analysis. The native-speaking first author interviewed local ritual leaders of the Pee Ta Khon festival in Dansai, Thailand,while both authors witnessed examples of other Buddhist death rituals in Thailand and visited temples and markets selling death ritual paraphernalia. Data include translated semi-structured interview transcripts, field notes, photographs and videos, the personal introspection of the first author, and also news articles and website information.
Findings – The paper reveals how hungry ghost death ritual resolves cultural contradictions by connecting materialism and spirituality through consumption practices of carnival celebration with feasting, music, drinking, costumes, and spirit offerings of symbols of material wealth such as paper money and branded goods.
Research implications/limitations - Further research in the form of full ethnographic studies of the same and other rituals would add additional detail and depth to the understanding of ritual in Asian consumer culture.
Originality/value – The study extends existing qualitative consumer research into death ritual into a new area, and sheds light on the way managers must locate Asian marketing initiatives within distinctively local contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-441
Number of pages15
JournalQualitative Market Research: an international journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2015


  • Ritual and consumption
  • Asian consumer identity

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