Journeys and Transformations of Himalayan Objects

International Colloquium

Objects’ Journeys and Transformation:

Circulation and re-appropriations across the Himalayas and beyond

(Parcours d’objets, objets en transformation :

Circulation et appropriations à travers l’Himalaya et au-delà)

Nanterre University and Musée du Quai Branly, Paris

24-26 September 2012

Organized by Gisèle Krauskopff and Pascale Dollfus

Karsha, Zanskar – P. Dollfus

[From the conference program:]
All objects have their own story. As they move from one place to another, they pass through different stages, and change their identity and function. In many cases they will already have crossed cultural, ethnic or caste boundaries on their way from the manufacturer/craftsman to his client. Objects undergo various transformations from the place where they were born and lived to collections and institutions that put the spotlight on them, before burying them in storerooms to make room for new objects to come.

Objects with no history or even a claim to a particular origin, displaced objects, masks, wooden sculptures and others artefacts of so-called “tribal” or “primitive” art have recently been given centre stage in Western collections to represent the Himalayas. It has resulted in a new aesthetic genre: the “Himalayan tribal art”, roughly defined by its archaic style and its enigmatic origin, which blurs the line between established genres like Classical Art, Tibetan Art, Popular or Folk Art. While becoming artworks, objects get a new power that makes them act from afar. After being handled by different actors they become actors in the social interactions they have generated, and in turn, can be manipulative.

Travelling objects, cross-border objects, acting objects? By studying moving objects in the different spaces they go through during their journey and by analysing the new configurations, which they take on meaning, we wish to question the status of these artefacts, which undergo multiple appropriations and roles, and to assess the notion of authenticity in “primitive art”.

The colloquium will provide simultaneous interpretation in English and French.

The program can be downloaded here.

The abstracts (most of them both in English and French) can be downloaded here.

[Change in schedule (17 Sept.): the meeting place on the first day (24 Sept.) will be the Espace Reverdy instead of the Salle des conférences as initially announced.]


Cite this blog post
Nicolas Sihlé (2012, September 13). Journeys and Transformations of Himalayan Objects. The Himalayas and beyond. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from

Nicolas Sihlé

Nicolas Sihlé, a sociocultural anthropologist, is researcher at the Center for Himalayan Studies, a research unit of the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) based in Villejuif (France). He specializes on Tibetan religion and society, and is the author of Rituels bouddhiques de pouvoir et de violence : La figure du tantriste tibétain [Buddhist rituals of power and violence : The figure of the Tibetan tantrist] (Brepols, 2013). His current work focuses on post-Mao socioreligious transitions in and around the famous communities of non-monastic specialists of tantric Buddhism in northeast Tibet (Amdo), and more generally on the comparative anthropology of Buddhism.

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1 Response

  1. Nicolas Sihlé says:

    Please note that the full abstracts of the presentations have been added to the announcement above (see the link at the bottom of the post).

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