New book: The Return of Polyandry, by Heidi Fjeld

The Return of Polyandry: Kinship and Marriage in Central Tibet, by Heidi E. Fjeld

Berghahnn books, 2022.

In this book, Heidi Fjeld, a Professor of Medical Anthropology at the University of Oslo, presents an-depth study of polyandry, kinship and marriage in the form of a fieldwork-based monograph of Central Tibetan rural communities. It is an important contribution to Tibetan studies and anthropology more generally given a renewed interest in kinship studies.

This book takes as its starting point an increase in polyandry in Panam valley from the 1980s. Contrary to some expectations, economic development and successive social and political reforms did not make polyandry disappear. The book explores the various reasons for the continuing relevance of polyandry in the context of a farming village, shedding light on the variability of kinship practices.

It is all the more a pleasure to share the news of this publication since The Return of Polyandry is available open access under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

From the publisher’s site:

Tibet is known for its broad range of marriage practices, particularly polyandry, where two or more brothers share one wife. With economic development and massive Chinese social and political reforms, including new marriage laws prohibiting plural marriages, polyandry was expected to disappear from Tibetan social lives. This book takes as its starting point the surprising increase in polyandry in Panam valley from the 1980s. It explores married lives in polyandrous houses and develops a theory of a flexible kinship of potentiality through the lens of a farming village in Tibet Autonomous Region. It is the first book-length ethnography of kinship and marriage in Tibet under Chinese rule.

Table of content:


Chapter 1. The Return of Polyandry
Chapter 2. Trajectories into Houses
Chapter 3. Fraternal Relations
Chapter 4. Female Roles
Chapter 5. The House as Ritual Space
Chapter 6. Moral Networks and enduring Hierarchies



Appendix: Timeline
Glossary of Tibetan Terms

Cite this blog post
Stéphane Gros (2022, August 22). New book: The Return of Polyandry, by Heidi Fjeld. The Himalayas and beyond. Retrieved May 24, 2024, from

Stéphane Gros

Stéphane Gros is a social anthropologist at the CNRS (France), Centre for South Asian and Himalayan Studies (CESAH). He is the author of a monograph on the Drung of Northwest Yunnan province in China (La Part manquante, 2012), and has written numerous articles and book chapters on issues of interethnic relations and representations of ethnic minorities, poverty and categorization, as well as rituals and cosmology. He has edited or co-edited four collections of relevance to ethnographic theory, Chinese studies, and area studies. For 2012-2016, he was the Principal Investigator for a collaborative project titled "Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Kham Sino-Tibetan Borderlands", funded by a ERC (European Research Council) Starting Grant. His personal research currently investigates aspects of kinship and social organization, conversion to Christianity, as well as heritage politics and environmental discourses.

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