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Accueil > À noter > Activités

CEH Workshop - Tuesday 5 February 2019

10.00 am to 1.00 pm, with Asaf Sharabi (Senior Lecturer, School of Behavioral Sciences, Peres Academic Center, Israel) and Stéphane Gros (social athropologist CNRS-CEH)

On the CNRS campus, 7, rue Guy Môquet, Villejuif

For those of you who are not from the Villejuif CNRS campus : please note that you will have to leave a piece of identity at the front gate (plan Vigipirate = France’s national security alert system).

In the "salle de conférences", ground floor, building D, 10.00 am - 1.00 pm

Asaf Sharabi
(Senior Lecturer, School of Behavioral Sciences,
Peres Academic Center, Israel)

The Politics of Madness : Spirit Possession and Biomedical Discourse Among Villagers in Himachal Pradesh


In many traditional societies the legitimacy of spirit possession is maintained even if it is perceived as a counter-hegemonic phenomenon. If those possessed are categorized as mentally ill, the diagnosis is usually made by forces such as psychiatrists and through biomedical discourse. The society itself sometimes has other cultural-religious patterns to help cope with deviations of the phenomenon. But what happens when these patterns are not sufficient ? This article presents a case of mediumship in northern India that was looked upon with mixed feelings by the society, because the three mediums strongly criticized religious practices and the caste system. As a result, madness, legitimate mediumship and biomedical discourses were introduced by some members of the society to put an end to deviate mediumship.


Stéphane Gros
(social anthropologist, CNRS-CEH)

The Possessed and the Dispossessed : Reflections on the Incidence of Suicide in Northwest Yunnan


Drung villagers in northwestern Yunnan tell how the circulation of precious goods can contribute to the spread of possession by evil spirits. These spirits, who bind to certain goods, are driven by perpetual dissatisfaction and envy. To some extent, to possess then implies the risk of being possessed. It is the hidden side of the desire for wealth, which becomes a threatening form of greed that can corrupt the social fabric. Some of these stories also refer to the potential danger for the possessed person to have their vitality (or that of their household) diminished and eventually lead to suicide. However, over the past decade, a series of suicides have raised the question of the effect of radical economic reforms that have put villagers in a situation of dependence on state subsidies, leaving them dispossessed and disempowered, with little chance of a better future. In this presentation, I would like to explore the possible links between cultural understandings of possession and suicide and how they can contribute to our interpretation of how current socio-economic changes are experienced.