Les perceptions de continuité et de rupture en Chine

Le 16 Octobre 2015, Katiana Le Mentec, chargée de recherche au Centre d’Etudes sur la Chine Moderne et Contemporaine présentera une communication intitulée “Perception of continuities in time of upheaval. Glimpses of a scholar debate in Anthropology” dans le cadre du colloque international en Anthropologie “ Comparative Study of Disasters and Upheavals: Perceptions and Responses” (Southwest University for Nationalities Chengdu, Sichuan, Chine).

Résumé de la communication

This paper aims to question social conceptions and perception of “continuity” in contexts of upheaval.
The philosopher Jullien (2002) claims the tendency to deny or diminish change is a specific feature of the “Chinese thought”, “able to overtake ruptures and breaks into continuous continuity”. For Laplantine (2008), this “East asian” way of dissolving the exception of the Event into an adaptation movement is ultimately different from western conceptions. While many recent works – on Chinese religion (Buddhism, Taoism) for instance, bring our attention to such contemporary tendencies, can we really consider a such simplistic dual cultural differentiation? Study of disasters allow us to consider various cultural contexts and reflect on the question.
Whether it is sudden (an earthquake) or prepared (the construction of a Dam reservoir), an upheaval can be socially understood through various interpretation frameworks. One of them constitutes in denying the singularity of the event and reducing the outstandingness of the changes induced. According to anthropologist Marc Augé (2008), the way of categorizing “events” in the “already known” can be observed in all societies – humans preferring the security of known environments and situations. This process, named “Immanence” by Augé, has been identified in many studies related to disaster. Examples are presented in the work of Manceron (2008) on the french avian flu, Clavairolle (2008) on a french village fire disaster, Fogel (1997), Hémond (2003) and Gessat-Anstett (2007) on Dam reservoir creations in Nubia, Mexico and Russia. During fieldwork undertook since 2004 upstream of the Three Gorges Dam (China) I observed many ways local people and officials paralleled the ecological, territorial and social transformations induced by the Three Gorges Dam Reservoir with legendary or historical events – whether they were considered good or bad. I identified them as resilience processes. For Jeudy (1990) including a catastrophic event into a kind of continuity may allow people to conjure the disaster, to disempower it and suppress the fear of the unknown; it is “a way to give meaning through the past in order to think the possibility of a future”.
In China, as in the “Western world”, ways to think transformations are multiple and change with time, but does that mean that anthropologists working on upheavals and disasters should get ride of the concept of “immanence” proposed by Augé? This notion might allow a better understanding of the mediation between such events and the population they affect. What could this concept bring to the table for conceptualizing the reality ethnographers observe on the field? Far from aiming to present a definite answer to these questions, this paper merely wishes to launch a discussion on the topic with scholars participating to the workshop who can confront experiences related to people’s framing of upheavals and disasters.


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