Postcolonial theory has only partially enabled an engagement with subaltern popular religion. The Indian version, preoccupied with the dialectic between colonialism and nationalism, does not necessarily require engagement either with subalterns or with their practices in order to produce a seemingly self-sufficient account of modernity. A different set of problems is located with other influential models, such as Spivak's critique of 'voice' as unmediated presence. Engaging with popular religious phenomena can provide alternatives to the epistemology underlying Spivak's critique. In 'possession' and 'mediumship', both valued in south Indian popular religion, we find a model of communication which is not restricted to speech, voice and hearing, where mediation across difference is a difficult but valuable potential to be cultivated over time.