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The feminine and the religious

organised by Gladys Chicharro (Université Paris 8), Stéphane Gros (CNRS, CEH), Adeline Herrou (CNRS, LESC), Aurélie Névot (CNRS, CEH).

Workshop in honour of Brigitte Baptandier, 30 June 2016

Venue: LESC, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative
Maison Archéologie et Ethnologie – René Ginouvès
21 Allée de l’université, 92000 Nanterre Salle 308F du LESC

In the introduction to La Dame-du-bord-de-l’Eau (1988), which was published in English under the title The Lady of Linshui. A Chinese Female Cult (transl. K.I. Fryklund, 2008), Brigitte Baptandier explains one of the purposes of her research in China (in Taiwan and then in the Province of Fujian): The main idea behind her work was to show what the notion of femininity and of taking a deliberately feminine approach to Chinese ethnology represented in China. In other words, it was both a matter of wondering how and where to consider Chinese civilization when adopting a feminine point of view about it but also of trying to trace back to the roots of what it means symbolically to be a woman in China in order to try to use a different language when speaking about the customs and particular habits relative to this.

The Taoist liturgical and shamanic tradition studied by Brigitte Baptandier has proved to be a fertile field for addressing the very idea of ​​the feminine: the body of certain mediums is in itself regarded as a possible "semantic field of femininity". In the same vein, the feminine has been truly valuable in this context for understanding the religious: Taoist religious history is based on the conception of the Yin and the Yang, which associates the pivotal notion of femininity with its necessary counterpart so that "when it comes to femininity, it is not only about women". This workshop aims to carry on exploring what the feminine and the religious together can tell us about China and more generally about the societies we are studying. It also intends to prompt a broader anthropological reflection:

What is the role of the feminine in the religious and what are the complex and multiple links that connect them? A question of method, as well as of the anthropologist’s stance. Can it be suggested, on the one hand, that an anthropology of the feminine exists in its own right, not only as a mirror image of an anthropology of the masculine? On the other hand, are the anthropologist’s "discoveries" unrelated to their own gender, whether they are a male or female researcher? Should we consider the masculine and the feminine as each other’s counterpart and therefore as equals, or can we/should we on the contrary consider them on different planes whenever we observe certain forms of asymmetry between men and women? Would the part one or the other plays in the religious come to shed light on a form of differential valency? In this perspective, what specific contribution can the study of the feminine and the religious make to anthropology?


9.30 a.m. Welcome address
9.45 a.m. Introduction
10.00 a.m.Mayfair Yang (University of California, Santa Barbara) : "Of Mothers, Goddesses, Bodhisattvas: Patriarchal Structures and Women’s Religious Agency"
10.30 a.m.Discussants: Alain Arrault (EFEO), Stéphane Gros (CNRS, CEH)
11.00 a.m.Marine Carrin (CNRS, LISST) : "La possession au féminin"
11.30 a.m.Discussants: Claudine Vassas (CNRS, LISST), Aurélie Névot (CNRS, CEH)
12.00 a.m.General discussion

12.30 p.m.Lunch

2 p.m. Nicola Schneider : "La fabrication de l’exemplarité féminine : le site monastique de Serthar et ses religieuses"
2.30 p.m. Discussants: Adeline Herrou (CNRS, LESC), Gladys Chicharro (Université Paris 8, EXPERICE)
3.00 p.m. Vincent Durand-Dastès (INALCO) :"Les shinü, les filles de pierre"
3.30 p.m. Discussants: Claudine Vassas (CNRS, LISST), Gladys Chicharro (Université Paris 8, EXPERICE)


4.15 p.m. Rainier Lanselle (EPHE): "De quelques ombres de disparues"
4.45 p.m. Discussants: Alain Arrault (EFEO), Aurélie Névot (CNRS, CEH)
5.15 p.m. General discussion
5.45 p.m. Conclusion

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