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"Asie du Sud - Himalaya" (ASH) Workshop


Thursday 8th February 2018, 5.30 p.m. - 7.30 p.m., with Sondra Hausner, Professor of Anthropology of Religion, University of Oxford


This session (in English), co-organised by the Laboratoire d’Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative (LESC) and the Centre for Himalayan Studies (CEH), will take place at LESC, at Maison Archéologie & Ethnologie, room 308F (3rd floor), 21 allée de l’Université, Nanterre. Our guest speaker is :

Sondra Hausner, University of Oxford


The Hierarchy of Ritual Inversion : Asceticism and Gender at the Great Indian Festival, Kumbh Mela


Why are some social distinctions inverted and others static during occasions of ritual activity ? This paper asks which elements of the social order are malleable, and whether such flexibility in ritual contexts depends on the fixed nature of particular relations of hierarchy in other spheres. For example, at the Kumbh Mela festival of north India, the social distinctions between ascetics and householders are exposed in a classic example of ritual inversion : ascetics take centre stage while householders attend as worshipping pilgrims. By contrast, everyday hierarchies between women and men appear reified rather than reversed : women ascetics remain on the farthest margins, behind the scenes or erased from view. Does the hierarchical relation between the genders ground the capacity for ritual to test the relation between ascetics and householders ? Ritual is famous in its capacity to invert relations, but not all elements of the social world are equally fluid.
Sondra HAUSNER proposes several texts to prepare for the workshop. The following texts can be accessed here

- Bouillier, Veronique. 1982. Si les Femmes Faisaient la Fête.... A propos des fêtes féminines dans les hautes castes indo-népalaises. L’Homme 22 (3) : 91-118.
- Burghart, Richard. 1983. Renunciation in the Religious Traditions of South Asia. Man (n.s.) 18 : 635-653.
- Clementin-Ojha, Catherine. 1988. Outside the Norms : Women Ascetics in Hindu Society. Economic and Political Weekly 23 (18) : WS34-WS36.
- DeNapoli, Antoinette. 2009. "By the Sweetness of the Tongue" : Duty, Destiny, and Devotion in the Oral Life Narratives of Female Sadhus in Rajasthan. Asian Ethnology. 58 (1) : 81-109.
- Dumont, Louis. 1980 [1966]. World Renunciation in Indian Religions (Appendix B). In Homo Hierarchicus : The Caste System and its Implications, pp. 267 - 286. Chicago : University of Chicago Press.
- Hausner, Sondra L. and Meena Khandelwal. 2006. Introduction : Women on their Own. In Women’s Renunciation in South Asia : Nuns, Yoginis, Saints, and Singers, Meena Khandelwal, Sondra L. Hausner, and Ann Grodzins Gold, eds, pp, 1 - 36. London : Palgrave Macmillan.

Open to a variety of disciplines and to numerous topics, the "Asie du Sud - Himalaya" (ASH) Workshop can take different forms depending on the speaker :

- presentation of work in progress : articles, chapters of doctoral dissertation, field data, audiovisual material…

- presentation of a field of research : 3 to 5 key references selected by the speaker and provided beforehand will be discussed, thus providing the opportunity of becoming familiar with a particular field of ​​research

- critical reviews of books : from the perspective of recent and classical works

- lectures on a particular topic.

The workshop takes place once a month on a Thursday at LESC (MAE, Université Paris Nanterre) between 5.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m., in room F308.