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Ritual Virtuosity, Large-Scale Priest-Patron Networks and the Ethics of Remunerated Ritual Services.

The Anthropology Departmental Seminar with Nicolas Sihlé, CNRS Paris

26.06.2019 | Mia Korsbæk

Dato ons 04 dec
Tid 13:00 15:00
Sted Foredragssalen Moesgård, 4206/139

Three Repkong ‘ritual heavyweights’ and one assistant, Chapcha county (July 2015).


This presentation considers a regionally famous, roughly 2000 man-strong pool of tantric ritual experts, situated in a district in far northeastern Tibet, who, in large part due to their collective fame, are called to officiate throughout large parts of the Amdo region, and beyond. There is here something unique, possibly unequalled in the ethnographic record, in terms of the size and geographic scope of the phenomenon, but I do not wish to dwell here on this idea of uniqueness. The argument is rather about how we should deal with the ethical critiques that some of this (sometimes substantial) income-generating ritual activity leads to; rather than follow the possibilities of a more narrow focus on these ethical discourses (as we see maybe a bit too often in recent works), my argument entails, in a sense, a return to our disciplinary basics; I stress how essential it is to contextualize these discourses within what underlies these priest-patron networks and relations: essentially, a thick, more complex, partially integrated bundle of different registers of value.




Nicolas Sihlé is director and researcher at the Centre for Himalayan Studies (CNRS, France). His first book, Rituels bouddhiques de pouvoir et de violence (2013), is on Tibetan tantrists, non-monastic specialists of powerful tantric rituals. His current research focuses on the large communities of tantrists of the Repkong district in northeast Tibet, and on collaborative work in the comparative anthropology of Buddhism. He recently co-edited a special issue on the Buddhist gift (Religion Compass 2015), a special section on the anthropology of Buddhism (Religion & Society 2017), and a special issue on hair and its treatment in Tibet (Ateliers d'anthropologie 2018).

Seminar, Antropologi