Philippe Sagant (1936-2015), by Stéphane Gros and Grégoire Schlemmer
Gros, Stéphane and Schlemmer, Grégoire (2016) “Obituary: Philippe Sagant (1936-2015),” Himalaya, the Journal of the Association for
Nepal and Himalayan Studies: Vol. 35: No. 2, Article 23.
The ethnologist Philippe Sagant, a specialist of the Himalayas, passed away on January 10, 2015, following a long illness which brought his career to an early end in 1996. A researcher at CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France) since 1966, he leaves behind a substantial yet little-known body of scientific work, despite the English translation of a large series of articles, published under the title The Dozing Shaman (1996a). The following pages pay tribute to the way Sagant practiced ethnology while endeavoring to highlight the main features of his work through the three main research themes he developed: 1) the socio-political changes that affect people living on the margins of the State, especially through processes of Hinduization and Buddhicization; 2) the ‘shamanic cultural background’ predating the arrival of these great religions; and 3) a comparative approach to the principles that structure a form of politico-religious organization characteristic of these societies. This description will reveal the wealth of Sagant’s ethnography as well as the originality of the narrative form of his writings. The reader will therefore be able to fully appreciate the unpublished text, “The Death of a Headman or Shaman’s Logic” which appears in the Perspectives section of this issue. Our only regret is that the ideas outlined in this text have not been taken any further due to the untimely death of this great research scholar.