Research seminar: “The transmission process among religious specialists”

2012: Shamans and mediums (II)

seminar organized by Aurélie Névot

Knowledge passed down from one generation to the next is the foundation stone of any social structure since it guarantees social continuity and ensures the relationships within it. Though it has inspired many religious, philosophical, literary, sociological and other accounts, it would be pointless to try to formalize them in any all-encompassing manner given that they are diversified and inscribed in diverse processes. The anthropological study of the way in which knowledge is passed down therefore requires sorting through a mass of dispersed, interconnected data. In order to contribute to this broad debate, this seminar aims at examining how knowledge is passed down among religious specialists.

We shall question the relationship between the person teaching and the person learning in such a situation, the relationship established between them as well as the nature and the means of the transmission process in this particular context. What is the relationship between an aspiring religious specialist and the one (whether spirit or human) who initiates the former into his or her duties? When no learning is mentioned, what does it refer to? What processes of transforming or developing oneself (or another self) does a person have to undergo? How is this relationship between the initiated and the initiator experienced? How is such a relationship conceived? How is this in keeping with the (written or oral) discourse, with mythology, with body language, etc.? What does observation provide? What about the personality of the teacher and the person being taught? When does one become a religious specialist? What about the autonomy of one in relation to the other, what about creativity? How does the “original” link (the chain of knowledge) last and in what form? Should it be broken instead to allow the line to continue to exist (reflections on handing down knowledge as a form of future adventure)?

Over the period 2010-2012, mediums and shamans are at the centre of our discussions. A comparison between different social forms of handing down mediumnism and shamanism throws new light on how the given societies make similar yet different logical choices. We therefore examine religious “categories” which are often inaccurate and “blanket categories”, in order to propose new definitions based on the different processes of handing down knowledge that are yet to emerge.

Venue: “Salle de conférences”, ground floor, “Bâtiment D”, 7, rue Guy Môquet, 94801 Villejuif

plan :

Detailed Seminar Program

12 janvier 2012, 10H30-12H30 (Séance introductive)

Aurélie Névot : « La transmission chez les chamanes et les médiums : le dit et le tu ».

2 Février 2012, 10H30-12H30

Paul Sorrentino : « Apprendre la possession, apprendre qu’on est possédé ».

 8 mars 2012, 10H30-12H30

Josiane Cauquelin : « Elle voulait que je devienne sa fille ».

 5 avril 2012, 10H30-12H30

Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière : La transmission chez les médiums birmans.

 3 Mai 2012, 10H30-12H30

Anne de Sales : « La transmission chamanique : un marchepied vers le ciel (Népal) ».

 7 juin 2012, 10H30-12H30

Richard Pottier : « Les modalités de la transmission des statuts de chamane et de médium au Laos ».

Cite this blog post
Aurélie Névot (2011, December 4). Research seminar: “The transmission process among religious specialists” The Himalayas and beyond. Retrieved April 23, 2024, from

Aurélie Névot

Aurélie Névot is a social anthropologist at the CNRS (CR1). Since 1998 she has been focusing her research in China on the Yunnan Province where she is studying the religion of the Nipa (the Sani branch of the Yi nationality). This involves a form of shamanism that is based on the use of a secret writing reserved exclusively for shamans called bimo, or Masters of Psalmodia. This literate shamanism, which is only effective through the voicing of ritual texts, leads us to rethink the relationship between orality and writing. Apart from the writing process, A. Névot is interested in the “ritual machinery” (bloody sacrifices) of this literate shamanism and she highlights the idea that the ontology of the Nipa is a “trans-substantial” one. She is also developing an anthropology of transmission (master-disciple relationship, transmission between shamans and between mediums). Another aspect of her research concerns the interplay between religion and politics – the Chinese State has engaged in a process of standardising rituals and of secularising shamanic writing –, as well as the inculturation and acculturation phenomena introduced by Christianity – Catholicism has been established locally since the 19th century. The recent institutionalisation of literate shamanism prompts notably A. Névot to question the process of patrimonialisation as implemented in China since 2003 and monitored by UNESCO. A new research has emerged since the World Expo Shanghai 2010: by analyzing the national Pavilion, she is highlighting that this building is a ritual device which shows the new cosmological orientation of China regarding the international constellation. It imbricates and re-elaborates Chinese representations in order to edify a new era where China rules the world, i.e. it insures the universal Harmony. Key words: acculturation - bimo - bloody sacrifice - body - China - Chinese pavilion - Christianity - ethnopolitics - gouvernance - inculturation - ontology - patrimonialisation - shamanism - secret writing - Shanghai - transmission - trans-substantiation - Yi – Yunnan - World Expo Fieldwork: China – Yunnan - Shanghai

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