SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

“Same but different: the conflation of multiple agencies in Tibetan exorcistic rituals” - CANCELLED



Charles Ramble, Professor and Directeur d'études (Histoire et philologie tibétaines) at the Ecole pratique des hautes études (EPHE, Sorbonne), Paris.

Date: 22 March 2017Time: 3:15 PM

Finishes: 22 March 2017Time: 5:00 PM

Venue: Paul Webley Wing (Senate House) Room: S211

Type of Event: Seminar

Western-language sources often state that all land in Tibet was owned by the Dalai Lama, a categorical assertion made possible only by a failure to appreciate the nuances of the Tibetan word bdag (pronounced dak). This term subsumes a range of related but distinct meanings, which include the substantives ‘lord/master’, ‘owner’ and ‘self’. As ‘self’, it became the Tibetan Buddhist translators’ choice for rendering the Sanskrit ātman. As a pronoun, bdag is one of several words denoting the first person – a meaning that it continues to have in several spoken dialects. Another term, rang, literally ‘self’, may also mean either ‘you’ or ‘I’, while khowo may be either a first- or third-person pronoun. Buddhist metaphysics make it possible for an individual to be a composite of several persons (and not just political or social identities): a lama may be one in a series of incarnated humans, while at the same time being a manifestation of a particular divinity, while distinct incarnation lineages may fuse into one. This presentation will examine the implications of the conflation of identities that features in exorcistic rituals. Typically, the effigies constructed in these contexts stand for the main protagonists in the ritual narrative, even those that are in opposition. They represent, simultaneously, the patient for whom the ritual is being performed; the demon that is attacking the patient; and the divinity whose aid has been enlisted to expel or destroy the demon. It will be suggested that this fusion of opposed ‘host/guest’-type agents finds it counterpart in ritual narratives where such confusing and even disturbing conflations have a strikingly oneiric quality, evoking what one author has referred to as “the all-at-onceness of the dream”.

Organiser: Dr. Stephen Hughes