2010 — Le cheval magnétomètre


A herder with his favorite horse, Harhiraa, Uvs, Mongolia (©Gregory Delaplace)

Le cheval magnétomètre. Dressage et choses invisibles en Mongolie

in D. Aigle, I. Charleux, V. Goossaert et R. Hamayon, Mélanges en l’honneur de Françoise Aubin, Sankt Augustin: Miscellania Asiatica, 2010, pp. 121–139.

ISBN: 9783805005685


It is a well‐known fact throughout the literature that Mongol people credit their horses with a special ability to feel the presence of things – “souls,” “ghosts” or “land masters” – that remain invisible to ordinary humans most of the time. Drawing on fieldwork with the Dörvöd herders of Northwestern Mongolia, this chapter develops this idea, and analyses four horse behaviours – shivering, neighing, stopping and micturition – interpreted by Mongols as reactions to different kinds of presence. Electromagnetism is taken here as a metaphor to understand people’s relationship to “invisible things”; it is argued moreover that, through a complex technology of dressage, horses are used as instruments comparable to magnetometers, expected to react to invisible presences proportionally to their proximity and to the intensity of their manifestation.