Tang Yun (Southwest Minzu University), Professeure invitée à l’EHESS

Tang Yun, (汤芸), ethnologue, anthropologue, professeure à la School of Ethnological Studies de la Southwest Minzu University (Chengdu, Sichuan), est accueillie à l’EHESS comme professeure invitée du 16 janvier au 22 février 2020, à l’invitation de Katiana Le Mentec (CNRS, CCJ – Centre Chine) et de Valérie Gelézeau (EHESS, CCJ – Centre de Recherche sur la Corée). À cette occasion, elle prononcera quatre conférences auxquelles vous êtes toutes et tous cordialement invité(e)s.

Tang Yun Biographie

Tang Yun est anthropologue, ethnologue spécialisée sur le Sud-Ouest de la Chine. Ses sujets de recherche portent sur le paysage, l’environnement, la catastrophe et la religion populaire. Elle reçut son doctorat en 2008 et entra en 2010 à la School of Ethnological Studies au sein de la Southwest University for Nationalities (Chengdu, China), aujourd’hui nommée Southwest Minzu University. Elle est vice directrice du Center for Anthropology and Ethnology Research (SWUN) et éditrice du Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities. En 2016/2017, elle fut chercheuse invitée à la School of Anthropology et au Musée d’ethnologie de l’université de Oxford (UK). Elle a dirigé deux grands projets nationaux “Comparative study of Upheavals” et “Local Experience and the Construction of Long-term Scientific Measure of Disaster Control in Southwest China”. Elle participe actuellement au projet international “The Local in China’s Heritage: Theoretical and Methodological Reflections” financé par le Leverhulme Trust (UK).

Dans le cadre de sa recherche doctorale (2005-2008), elle a exploré des questions traitant du paysage, des légendes et de l’historicité dans le corridor Tibeto-Yi (Sud-Ouest de la Chine). De nombreuses enquêtes de terrain dans la région lui ont permis d’ouvrir ses intérêts de recherche à l’anthropologie de l’environnement, les disaster studies, ou encore la religion institutionnelle. Depuis 2012 elle travaille sur le culte des montagnes sacrées, le paysage, les mythes et les pratiques religieuses au Kham (l’une des trois provinces traditionnelles du Tibet).

Tang Yun a publié deux ouvrages en chinois :
“In the Name of Mountain: The Landscape, Rumor and Historicity in the Cultural Contact in Central Guizhou” (2008) Beijing: the Ethnic Publishing House.
“Stone of Otherness: the Ritual, Landscape, and Perception of Disaster” (2016) Beijing: the Ethnic Publishing House.

Elle a également publié une trentaine d’articles et chapitres d’ouvrage, dont :
– Misunderstanding J. Frazer in “Frazer Lecture”: the “Regicide” in Divine Kingship and its Anthropological Debates. [en Chinois], Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities, 2016, 12: 6-12.
– Desertification in Alpine Wetlands and Grasslands: The Natural/Cultural Cause and Social Response to It [en Chinois], Journal of Southwest University for Nationalities, 2015, 10: 7-12.
– Fire Cause and Fire Control in Southwest China: An Anthropological Study of Fire in Guizhou Dong Villages [en Chinois], Thinking, 2015, 2: 31-36.
– ‘Crossing Borders and Paradigms: the Intermediaries and the Reformation of Anthropology’ [en anglais] dans les Cahiers d’Extreme-Asie (23), 2014

Programme des interventions de Tang Yun

1. Mapping the ‘Valley’: a Topographical Study on Longxi Valley, An Earthquake Affected Qiang People’s habitats in Wenchuan, Northern Sichuan.

Mardi 21 janvier 2020 (10h-13h) : séminaire de Katiana Le Mentec : « Territoires affectés. Explorations ethnographiques et anthropologiques » (EHESS, 54 bd Raspail – 75006 Paris, Salle AS1_24)
Attention places très limitées!

L’intervention de Tang Yun se fera dans le cadre du programme du séminaire TERA. Pour le programme complet de la séance du 21 janvier : cliquer ici.

Présentation succinte de l’intervention de Tang Yun

Living in the mountainous area, Qiang people always describe their life-world as a ‘valley’ 沟, a concept recalling locals a world of all natural beings as well as supernatural beings. The altitudinal gradient of valley provides Qiang habitants not only several kinds of ecological system but also many types of risks. Qiang people on one hand developed skills to reduce their own vulnerability to these risks, on the other hand, believe that these risks are beyond human’s control because it is the solse (the spirit) of valley which constrains the risks. The solser of valley is the key concept of the topography of Qiang, or the axis on which local people map their life-world. In 2008, after the Wenchuan Earthquake, occurred lots of narrations on the declination of solser of heavily affected valleys. As one of the heavily affected valley, Longxi Valley welcomed lots of post-constructions and landscape reshaping projects in the following 10 years. However, the upgrading of infrastructures didn’t convince the local that the solser of their valley has been increased. This lecture presents a case study on disaster and post-constructions, and aims to provide an interpretation of the concept of sol`ser and how it shapes the topography of Longxi Valley after disaster.

2. The World in Sand. The Nomadic Lifeworld and Its Response to Desertification in Alpine Wetlands and Grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau

Lundi 27 janvier 2020 (14h-16h) : séminaire de Sandrine Revet : « Catastrophes et risques » (CERI, salle du conseil, 4ème étage, 56 rue Jacob, 75006 Paris)

ATTENTION INSCRIPTION OBLIGATOIRE : https://www.sciencespo.fr/agenda/fr/events-front?event=1888

Présentation succinte de l’intervention de Tang Yun

This lecture explores the causes and responses to desertification, which unusually took place in Alpine wetlands and grasslands in the Tibetan Plateau. By comparing the local perceptions of two landscapes (desert and grassland/wetland), one could found (a) there is no vernacular notion of “desertification” in local Tibetan vocabulary, this term is borrowed from Mandarin, (b) for locals, the formation of a piece of desert on wetland is not a disaster but a gift from nature, (c) moreover, influenced by Buddhism, locals describe one sandy hill – a piece of desert – as the Sumeru mountain, the sacred five-peaked mountain considered to be the center of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes. However, in recent decades, in this area the desertification as a “serious disaster” category has become common sense. Governors, experts and locals have all made efforts to turn desert into grassland. We can wonder what are, for the actors involved, the main causes of this “disaster”? Scientists and experts gave explanations qualified as “scientific”. Most of these interpretations reduce the desertification phenomenon to overgrazing, and look down the nomadic life style. This frame dominates the desertification relief and depressed the local perceptions and agency. In the last 2 decades however, despite more investments and efforts, the desertification became much more serious. This situation inspired local people to rethink the cause of desertification and their own role in the desertification relief. Some successful local practices began to reshape the understanding of the perception of desertification. By this case study, this lecture tries to raise topics about the relationship between religion and disaster perception, the relationship between expert knowledge and local traditions, and how locals can play an important role in the state sponsored projects.

3. From ‘Hierarchy’ to ‘Class’: Housename and Purification Rituals in rGyal rong (Western Sichuan, China)

Lundi 3 février 2020 (14h-16h) : demi- journée d’étude de l’axe “L’habiter en Asie” (MSH, salle 737, 54 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris)

Présentation succinte de l’intervention de Tang Yun

Relying on both historical data and ethnographic research carried out since 2009, this study examines processes of transformations of territory that occurred in the Dengchun Valley (Sichuan Province, Southwest China). In the last century, local people have been confronted to different kinds of phenomenon affecting the space they define as their territory. The seminar proposes to explore institutional dimensions as well as conception dimensions of these changes looking at how local people have perceived and responded to them.
There are 4 villages in the valley. Villagers categories themselves into three cultural groups: rGyal rong, Amdo Tibetan and Han Chinese. For rGyal rong people, in tradition, territories could be defined in two ways. The first is a comparatively political and abstract one: each rGyal rong people lives on the territory of a Tusi (a local ruler with political power assigned by the emperor completed by religious authority from Tibetan Buddhism). In this sense, the competition and war of several Tusi led to changes of territorial governance. The second way to define territory for rGyal rong people is a concrete and daily one: they name their territory “a valley”, a social-cultural concept based on the geographic feature of their living world. For local people, this conception of territory is the fundamental way of perceiving their “lifeworld”. Moreover, RGyal rong is a house-based society with a house-name system (房名制度). As the basic social unit of rGyal rong, the household emphasizes the social structure defined by people living in and sharing the same space rather than on their blood relations. Each house has its own house name, which refers to the physical house, as well as people living in this house, the related property, land, tax, rights and obligations. This house-name system is a hierarchical one, ranking all house-names into 4 fixed ranks: the sacred name, honorable names, pure names, impure names. The system also categorizes inhabitants (hunters, herders etc.) who were never qualified to have a house-name hence were considered as polluting and dangerous forces. The tantric Bonpo priests hold the purification ritual of 雪赤/chab trug for houses.
Along the history, rGyal rong territory went along many transformations, while the most influential and dramatic one was triggered by the Two Jinchuan Campaigns (1747-1749/1771-1776). The campaigns reshaped the political and cultural situation of rGyal rong in the empire as well as its religious relationship with Tibet. This research focuses on how these changes were perceived and coped with by locals. In short, since the Two Jinchuan Campaigns, the immigrants (most are Han Chinese), who are not qualified to have a house-name, kept seeking an upgrade in house-name ranks. Many social reforms helped this new trend happening, among them, the introduction of the idea of ‘class’ was the crucial one. The new social relation based on class has re-elaborated the foundation of social status. The hierarchical house-name system was bestow with definition of upgrading as well as purification processes. As a result, even though the house-name system continues to be the fundamental institution in the Valley, its contents, practice and meaning has however been transformed dramatically. This territory reshaping process could also be observed in the present local’s social life and religious practices. The experience of Dengchun is an epitome of transformations affecting the ways people perceive and live their territory in southwest China. The shift ‘from hierarchy to class’ could be a key to understand the process of modern state-building in China and its meaning.


4. Releasing Water and Worshiping Water Deities: Rethinking the Locality in Dujiangyan, a World Heritage Site

Lundi 10 février 2020 (13h-16h) : séminaire de C. Bodolec, C. Isnart et C. Voisenat : « Critical Heritage studies » (MSH, salle 751, 54 bd Raspail, 75006 Paris)

Présentation succinte de l’intervention de Tang Yun

As a world heritage site, Dujiangyan is known as an irrigation/water-controlling system and a representative of the immense advances in science and technology achieved in ancient China. Built at northern Chengdu Basin, it takes advantage of the topography to slow down and distribute the water flowing down from mountainous regions. Since then, flood stopped visiting Chengdu Basin and the later was designated as ‘a heaven on earth’. The construction of this system was carried out shortly after the Qin Dynasty (the first Dynasty on the Chinese territory, 221-207 B.C) taking over the regional kingdom of Shu. Later on and for centuries, an official annual ceremony of “releasing water” celebrated the achievement of Li Bin, engineer of this irrigation/water-controlling system and governor appointed by the Qin Emperor. As for local people, they kept alive memories of Shu kingdom’s and worships of water deities who were “superscribed” (P. Duara, 1988) with various meaning along history. Based on historical data as well as ethnographic research on myths, legends and rituals in Dujiangyan, this talk analyses a complex locality embedded in heritage site, presenting a challenge to the heritage studies on religious sites, as well as to the conservation and management of the religious practices in a heritage site.

Dujiangyan (Yang Yun, 2017)



Professor Tang Yun Resume

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