Monthly Archives: March 2018


2010 — Representing Power (ed.)


Representing Power in Inner Asia — 2 volumes

Bellingham: Western Washington University, 2010.

  • Reprenting Power in Ancient Inner Asia. Legitimacy, Transmission and the Sacred.

ISBN 978–0-914584–31-5

Table of Contents:

Preface — Peter Golden

Introduction — Isabelle Charleux, Grégory Delaplace, Roberte Hamayon

The Acquisition, the Legitimation, the Confirmation and the Limitations of Political Power in Medieval Inner Asia — Denis Sinor

Structure Of Society And Power In The Ancient Inner Asian Nomadic Empires: Xiongnu And Xianbei — Nikolai N. Kradin

To Impress the Seal: A Technological Transfer — Françoise Aubin

Sülde. La formation d’une terminologie militaro‐politique chez les nomades médiévaux d’Eurasie — Sergei V. Dmitriev

State Custom And Governance, Tör Yos And Tör Within Mongol Clans — Rodica Pop

Nurhaci’s Names — Nicola Di Cosmo

From Ongon to Icon: Legitimization, Glorification and Divinization of Power in Some Examples of Mongol Portraits — Isabelle Charleux

Legitimizing A Low‐Born, Regicide Monarch: The Case Of The Mamluk Sultan Baybars And The Ilkhans In The Thirteenth Century — Denise Aigle

Une « dualité » du pouvoir ? Empire terrestre et inspiration divine dans la légende arabe d’Alexandre et de Khidr — François de Polignac

The Ruler And The Lama: Political And Religious Relations In The Urad West Duke Banner In The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries — Caroline Humphrey

Explaining Rituals and Writing History: Tactics Against the Intermediate Class — Christopher P. Atwood

Rivalry Between Mongols And Tayiči’ut For Authority: Kiyat‐Borǰigin Genealogy — Tatiana D. Skrynnikova

Pax Mongolica / Pax Mongolorum — Tseveliin Shagdarsürüng

The Headless State In Inner Asia: Reconsidering Kinship Society
And The Discourse Of Tribalism — David Sneath

  • Representing Power in Modern Inner Asia. Conventions, Alternatives and Oppositions.

ISBN 978–0-914584–32-2

Table of contents:

Preface — Peter Golden

Introduction — Isabelle Charleux, Grégory Delaplace,
Roberte Hamayon

The Joint Making Of Illusion And Disillusion: Chinggis Khan On A Buryat Calendar — Roberte N. Hamayon

A Power Play Among The Kyrgyz: State Versus Descent — Svetlana Jacquesson

Marshal Choibalsan’s ‘Second Funeral’ — Grégory Delaplace

Tengrism’ In Kyrgyzstan: In Search Of New Religious And Political Legitimacy — Aurélie Biard and Marlène Laruelle

Major State Rituals And The Reinvention Of Tradition In Contemporary Mongolia. Two Aspects Of The State Cult In Contemporary Mongolia: The Sacrifice To The Mountains and The Cult Of The Standards — Sedenjav Dulam

Quelques pistes de réflexions à partir du texte de Sedenjav Dulam — Isabelle Bianquis

The Virtual Temple: The Power of Relics In Darhad Mongolian Buddhism — Morten Axel Pedersen

Enclosing For Growth: Including Or Excluding People From Land In North‐east Mongolia — Rebecca Empson

Experiencing Twentieth Century Architecture And Urbanity In Mongolia: An Analysis Of Ulaanbaatar’s Buildings Through State‐Owned Images And Personal Narratives — Ai Maekawa

How Nomadic Societies Perceive Themselves In Mongolia And Mali: A Comparative Perspective — Linda Gardelle



2012 — Cultivating Uncertainty (ed.)


Cultivating Uncertainty: Ethnographies of Opaque Socialities

With François Berthomé & Julien Bonhomme

Themed section in Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2/2, pp. 129–312.

Fully available online

Table of Contents:

Preface: Cultivating uncertainty

François Berthomé, Julien Bonhomme, Grégory Delaplace

Performing opacity: Initiation and ritual interactions across the ages among the Bassari of Guinea

Laurent Gabail

Make yourself uncomfortable”: Joking relationships as predictable uncertainty among the Trumai of Central Brazil

Emmanuel de Vienne

The rules” in Morocco? Pragmatic approaches to flirtation and lying

Matthew Carey

The dangers of anonymity: Witchcraft, rumor, and modernity in Africa

Julien Bonhomme

Bureaucratic anxiety: Asymmetrical interactions and the role of documents in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela

Olivier Allard

Insect magnetism: The communication circuits of Rhinoceros beetle fighting in Thailand

Stéphane Rennesson, Emmanuel Grimaud, Nicolas Césard

Human‐animal “joint commitment” in a reindeer herding system

Charles Stépanoff


2012 — Ghosts, strangers, reciprocity


A Russian military grave in eastern Mongolia, 2009 (©Gregory Delaplace)

Parasitic Chinese, Vengeful Russians. Ghosts, Strangers and Reciprocity in Mongolia

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 18/s1, pp. s131‐s144.

Special issue: The return to hospitality: strangers, guests, and ambiguous encounters. Edited by Matei Candea and Giovanni Da Col.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1467–9655.2012.01768.x


This paper considers stories of haunting by ghosts of a foreign origin that have been circulating lately in the capital city of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar. These narratives, it is argued, depict Chinese and Russian people as very different kinds of strangers, defined by contrastive regimes of relationship with their host. Contrary to Russians, who are still remembered – rightly or not – as great providers, Chinese people are pictured in these stories as some kind of parasites, who constantly take from Mongolian land and never give anything in return.


2011 — Burying submerging forgetting


Bayan Hoshuu cemetery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1999 (©Gregory Delaplace)

Burying, Submerging, Forgetting. Inventing and Subverting the Memory of the Dead in Mongolia

English version of: “Enterrer, submerger, oublier. Invention et subversion du souvenir des morts en Mongolie”

Raisons Politiques 41/1, pp. 87–103.

Special issue: Fragments de corps et restes humains. Edited by Arnaud Esquerre & Gérôme Truc.



This paper concerns a reform of funerary practices carried out in Mongolia from the mid‐1950s onward. Imposing burial, it aimed at banning the ritual performed until then, which consisted in laying the corpse of deceased people in the open. This practice was deemed improper and unsuited to urban life. The success of this reform was ambivalent : while burial seems to have been adopted without too much difficulty by the population, cemeteries did not become what the reformers had hoped they would. Envisioned as fenced and flowered spaces, where the memory of dead people could be celebrated with dignity, they took the form of vast wastelands which are avoided as much as possible, and where graves are left to oblivion and derelict. The purpose of this paper is to understand why the project of this reform has been subverted in this fashion, by caracterising the funerary ideology that corresponds the peculiar configuration of Mongolian cemeteries.


2011 — Enterrer submerger oublier


Bayan Hoshuu cemetery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 1999 (©Gregory Delaplace)

Enterrer, submerger, oublier. Invention et subversion du souvenir des morts en Mongolie

Raisons Politiques 41/1, pp. 87–103.

Special issue: Fragments de corps et restes humains. Edited by Arnaud Esquerre & Gérôme Truc.



Cet article traite d’une réforme des pratiques funéraires conduite en Mongolie à partir du milieu des années 1950. Instituant l’obligation d’enterrer les morts, son enjeu principal est de rendre illégal le rituel pratiqué jusqu’à lors, consistant à déposer les cadavres des défunts à même le sol. Cette pratique, en effet, est jugée inconvenante et inadaptée à la vie urbaine. Le succès de la réforme est mitigé : si l’inhumation semble avoir été adoptée sans trop de difficulté par la population, les cimetières, en revanche, ne prennent pas le tour que les réformateurs avaient souhaité. Imaginés comme des espaces enclos et fleuris, où le souvenir des morts pourrait être dignement célébré, ils se présentent jusqu’à aujourd’hui comme de vastes terrains vagues, évités autant que possible, où les tombes sont livrées à l’oubli et au délabrement. Il s’agira ici de comprendre les raisons de la subversion du projet de cette réforme, en tentant de caractériser l’idéologie funéraire qui sous‐tend la configuration singulière des cimetières mongols.


2010 — Chinese ghosts in Mongolia


Chinese Merchants in Our, beginning of 20th century (©Mongolian National Archives)

Chinese Ghosts in Mongolia

Inner Asia 12/1, pp. 127–141.

Special issue: Oral Histories of Socialist Modernities in central and Inner Asia. Edited by U.E. Bulag, C. Kaplonski and Y. Konagaya.

DOI: 10.1163/146481710792710282


This paper explores a rumour that has been circulating lately in Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar. People report encounters with Chinese ghosts, who appear in the form of long‐bearded old men dressed in silken clothes. These curious apparitions are recognised by the population as the souls of Chinese merchants, who remained attached to the place where they buried the wealth they accumulated during their life. At a time when Chinese economic expansion raises concerns among the Mongolian population, these ghosts of the colonial era sound like a warning against present‐day Chinese migrants. Introducing several of these stories, this paper shows that Chinese people are imagined as essentially parasitic beings, who not only come to Mongolia to trade but stick to the place, even beyond their own death, to suck out its vital resources.


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.


2013 — What the invisible looks like


Offerings made on the location of an open air burial, Harhiraa, Uvs, Mongolia (©Gregory Delaplace)

What the Invisible Looks Like. Ghosts, Perceptual Faith and Mongolian Regimes of Communication

in Ruy Blanes and Diana Espírito Santo (eds.), The Social Life of Spirits, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2013, p. 52–68.

ISBN: 9780226081779


This chapter draws on Mongolian herders’ stories of their own encounters with “ghosts” (süns, chötgör), and highlights the specific narrative techniques by which people describe their sudden perception of what is otherwise known as “invisible things” (üzegdehgüi yum). Ghosts, it is argued, are better defined by their specific regime of communication –i.e. the conditions in which they might become perceptible to some people– than by their ontological properties –i.e. the conditions in which they are thought to exist. Indeed, while herders tend to doubt the existence of ghosts in general, they readily admit that certain particular sensations undoubtedly shake one’s sense of dwelling, hinting that the world, to paraphrase Merleau Ponty, might not always be what we see. Expanding on this idea, this chapter proposes to envisage ghosts’ mode of existence through the prism of their mode of manifestation.

vignette kohn forets

2017 — Comment pensent les forêts


Comment pensent les forêts. Vers une anthropologie au‐delà de l’humain

Traduction du livre d’Eduardo Kohn (titre original: How Forests Think, Towards an Anthropology Beyond the Human).

Préface de Philippe Descola.

Paris, Zones Sensibles, 2017.


Les forêts pensent‐elles ? Les chiens rêvent‐ils ? Dans ce livre important, Eduardo Kohn s’en prend aux fondements même de l’anthropologie en questionnant nos conceptions de ce que cela signifie d’être humain, et distinct de toute autre forme de vie. S’appuyant sur quatre ans de recherche ethnographique auprès des Runa du Haut Amazone équatorien, Comment pensent les forêts explore la manière dont les Amazoniens intéragissent avec les diverses créatures qui peuplent l’un des écosystèmes les plus complexes au monde. Que nous l’admettions ou non, nos outils anthropologiques reposent sur les capacités qui nous distinguent en tant qu’humains ; pourtant, lorsque nous laissons notre attention ethnographique se porter sur les relations que nous tissons avec d’autres sortes d’êtres, ces outils – qui ont pour effet de nous aliéner du reste du monde – se révèlent inopérants. Comment pensent les forêts entend répondre à ce problème. Cet ouvrage façonne un autre genre d’outils conceptuels à partir des propriétés étranges et inattendues du monde vivant lui‐même. Dans ce travail revolutionnaire, Eduardo Kohn entraîne l’anthropologie sur des chemins nouveaux et stimulants, qui laissent espérer de nouvelles manières de penser le monde, monde que nous partageons avec d’autres sortes d’êtres.

Voir la page du livre sur le site de l’éditeur


Préface (Philippe Descola)

Introduction. Runa Puma

Chapitre 1. Les touts ouverts

Chapitre 2. La pensée vivante

Chapitre 3. La cécité de l’âme

Chapitre 4. Pidgins trans‐espèces

Chapitre 5. La fluide efficacité de la forme

Chapitre 6. Le futur vivant (et l’impondérable poids des morts)

Epilogue. Au‐delà

2012 — Frontier Encounters (ed.)

Illustration Frontier Encounters

Frontier Encounters: Knowledge and Practicalities at the Chinese, Russian and Mongolian Border

Book editor, with Franck Billé & Caroline Humphrey

Cambridge, Open Book Publishers, 2012.

ISBN: 978–1-906924–87-4


China and Russia are rising economic and political powers that share thousands of miles of border. Yet, despite their proximity, their practical, local interactions with each other — and with their third neighbour Mongolia — are rarely discussed. The three countries share a boundary, but their traditions, languages and worldviews are remarkably different.

Frontier Encounters presents a wide range of views on how the borders between these unique countries are enacted, produced, and crossed. It sheds light on global uncertainties: China’s search for energy resources and the employment of its huge population, Russia’s fear of Chinese migration, and the precarious economic independence of Mongolia as its neighbours negotiate to extract its plentiful resources.

Bringing together anthropologists, sociologists and economists, this timely collection of essays offers new perspectives on an area that is currently of enormous economic, strategic and geo‐political relevance.

This collective volume is the outcome of a network project funded by the ESRC (RES-075–25_0022) entitled “Where Empires Meet: The Border Economies of Russia, China and Mongolia”. The project, based at the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (University of Cambridge), ran from 28 January 2010 to 27 January 2011. That project formed the foundation for a new and ongoing research project “The life of borders: where China and Russia meet” which commenced in October 2012. More information about both projects and Frontier Encounters is available here.

PDF fully available online.

Table of Contents:

1. A Slightly Complicated Door: The Ethnography and Conceptualisation of North Asian Borders

Grégory Delaplace, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.01

2. On Ideas of the Border in the Russian and Chinese Social Imaginaries

Franck Billé, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.02

3. Rethinking Borders in Empire and Nation at the Foot of the Willow Palisade

Uradyn E. Bulag , DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.03

4. Concepts of “Russia” and their Relation to the Border with China

Caroline Humphrey, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.04

5. Chinese Migrants and Anti‐Chinese Sentiments in Russian Society

Viktor Dyatlov, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.05

6. The Case of the Amur as a Cross‐Border Zone of Illegality

Natalia Ryzhova, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.06

7. Prostitution and the Transformation of the Chinese Trading Town of Ereen

Gaëlle Lacaze, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.07

8. Ritual, Memory and the Buriad Diaspora Notion of Home

Sayana Namsaraeva, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.08

9. Politicisation of Quasi‐Indigenousness on the Russo‐Chinese Frontier

Ivan Peshkov, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.09

10. People of the Border: The Destiny of the Shenehen Buryats

Marina Baldano, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.10

11. The Persistence of the Nation‐State at the Chinese‐Kazakh Border

Ross Anthony, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.11

12. Neighbours and their Ruins: Remembering Foreign Presences in Mongolia

Grégory Delaplace, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.12

Appendix 1: Border‐Crossing Infrastructure: The Case of the Russian‐Mongolian Border

Valentin Batomunkuev, DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0026.13

Appendix 2: Maps

Vignette Invention of the dead

2009 — L’invention des morts

Illustration Invention of the dead

L’invention des morts. Sépultures, fantômes et photographie en Mongolie contemporaine

Ouvrage personnel.

Paris, EMSCAT (Nord‐Asie 1)

ISBN: 978–2-9518888–5-2

Summary: The Invention of the Dead explores the relationship that Mongols maintain daily with their dead. Based on an investigation carried out with Dörvöd nomadic herders and in the capital city Ulaanbaatar from 1999 to 2005, Grégory Delaplace shows that the dead are at the centre of a set of discreet actions, by which herders and city‐dwellers take up or turn down modernist ideologies and socialise an environment populated with invisible “masters”. The successive study of grave sites, of ghost stories and of the social uses of photography takes the reader through the diverse processes and small tactical finds by which the dead are “invented” as the partners of formal or intimate relations which subvert the institutional frames set by the state and the clergy. Portraying through original data the art of living with the dead in today’s Mongolia, this book not only fills a gap in the regional ethnographic litterature, it proposes a renewed methodology for anthropology.

Table of Contents:

Préface, par Roberte Hamayon


1ère partie: Sépultures

Chapitre 1 : Réglementer les rites funéraires

Chapitre 2 : Les cimetières d’Ulaanbaatar

Chapitre 3 : La place des morts en milieu rural

 2ème partie Fantômes

Chapitre 4 : Parler des morts – silence et récit

Chapitre 5 : Raconter l’invisible

 Chapitre 6 : La place des morts parmi les « invisibles »

3ème partie: Photographie

Chapitre 7 : Les portraits de parents défunts


2015 — Le funéraire (ed.)

Le Funéraire: Mémoire, protocoles, monuments

Direction d’ouvrage, avec Frédérique Valentin.

Paris, Éditions de Boccard, 2015.

ISBN: 978–2-7018–0434-7

Résumé: Tout n’a-t-il pas déjà été dit sur le funéraire? En réunissant archéologues, anthropologues et historiens autour de cette question, les actes du 11e colloque annuel de la MAE entendent montrer que, bien au contraire, ce lieu commun de la recherche en sciences humaines mérite d’être revisité. Du traitement ambigu du cadavre des souverains incas, que ses sujets continuent de traiter comme s’il était vivant, aux pratiques incertaines qui entourent les nourrissons morts dans les hôpitaux français, des sépultures monumentales de l’âge du Fer crétois aux tombes soignées mais anonymes des chrétiens de l’Éthiopie médiévale et moderne, du déménagement forcé des sanctuaires ancestraux chinois dans la mégalopole de Shenzhen aux sépultures mayas découvertes au coeur des maisons, les études de cas rassemblées dans ce livre invitent à une nouvelle réflexion sur ce qui peut constituer la place des morts dans les sociétés humaines du passé et du présent. Il semble que cette place n’est pas aussi fixe, certaine et univoque queles travaux classiques sur le funéraire avaient pu le laisser croire. Au fil des contributions, le lecteur constatera qu’elle est plutôt l’objet d’incertitudes récurrentes et de négociations, qu’elle n’est pas nécessairement associée à une sépulture visible ou à une volonté univoque de souvenir et, surtout, que les morts circulent bien davantage, et souvent bien plus vite, qu’on ne le pense.


Grégory Delaplace, Introduction : Incertitudes morales, régimes de visibilité et vitesse de circulation des morts

Maurice Bloch, Comparer les pratiques funéraires

Estella Weiss‐Krejci, The Distinction between Funeral and Burial and Why it Matters

1re partie: Place des morts et incertitudes morales

Gaëlle Clavandier et Philippe Charrier, Quelle place pour les « bébés morts » ? Espaces dédiés dans les cimetières

et cérémonies rituelles d’adieu

Jessica Goux, Controverse en Terre d’Arnhem : où enterrer le défunt Dr Yunupingu ?

Céline Codron, Des dépôts mortuaires dans les patios toltèques : pratique funéraire ou non funéraire ? Étude de cas précis de l’État d’Hidalgo, Mexique, 800‑1300 apr. J.-C

Hemmamuthé Goudiaby, Squelettes dans le placard. La place du défunt dans les ensembles résidentiels mayas Classiques (250–950 apr. J.-C.)

Julio Bendezu‐Sarmiento et Johanna Lhuillier, Les « silos funéraires » de l’âge du Fer en Asie centrale : dépotoir, ossuaire ou monument de mémoire ?

Sonemany Nigole, Des os dans le Mékong. La mémoire sans sépulture

Denis Regnier, Tombes ancestrales et super mariages chez les Betsileo de Madagascar

Anne‐Christine Trémon, « Empêcher la dispersion des ancêtres » à Fort‐les‐Pins (Shenzhen, Chine)

Emmanuel Alcaraz, Le devenir des restes des mujâhidîn de 1962 à nos jours

2e partie: Régimes de visibilité de la sépulture

Aurélie Aubignac, Des formes et du temps de la mémoire et de l’oubli dans les nécropoles crétoises du premier âge du Fer

Marie‐Laure Derat et Yves Gleize, Anonymat des sépultures et mémoire des espaces et des morts : approche historique, anthropologique et archéologique des pratiques funéraires dans la société chrétienne d’Éthiopie, xie‐xviiie siècle

Lucia Alberti,Au-delà de l’horizon : différents régimes de visibilité des sépultures de Cnossos au IIe millénaire av. J.-C

Pauline Piraud‐Fournet, Mashhad et mawqaf, monuments funéraires druzes du sud de la Syrie

Isabel Yaya, Les corps de la mémoire : pratiques mortuaires et pérennité dynastique chez les Incas

Olga Sicilia, Neither Tombs nor Weeping. The Death of Mhondoro Lineage Ancestral Mediums in the mid‐Zambezi Valley (Zimbabwe)

Olivier Herrenschmidt, De quelques dispositions des enfants morts en bas âge dans l’hindouisme populaire. Les Vâda‐Balija, pêcheurs en mer de l’Andhra côtier

3e partie: Traitement funéraire et circulation des morts

Estelle Amy de la Bretèque, Se lamenter en MP3. Supports de mémoires mobiles chez les Yézidis d’Arménie

Pascal Sellier, Sépulture finale et programme funéraire. Penser les différents gestes funéraires des anciens Marquisiens comme les étapes d’un même protocole

Olivia Munoz, La « fabrique des ancêtres ». Complexification sociale et sépultures collectives dans la péninsule d’Oman à l’âge du Bronze ancien

Andras Zempleni, Un rite de reconstitution émotionnelle de la nation. Les réenterrements politiques hongrois

Poster Ghosts Evening

Soirée Fantômes (Nanterre 29 mars)

À l’occasion de la parution du nouveau numéro de la revue Terrain, en avril 2018, consacré aux fantômes et à la diversité de leur apparitions, les étudiants de M2 Anthropologie et la revue Terrain vous convient le 29 mars de 17h à 20h à la Ferme du Bonheur pour un événement qui allie rencontres, discussions, performances et expérimentations. Un débat avec les élèves et les professeurs de l’Ecole d’art Penninghen, mobilisés pour réaliser l’illustration de la couverture du numéro, permettra une réflexion sur l’image en sciences sociales. Vous pourrez aussi vous laisser surprendre par des récits d’histoires de fantômes, réelles ou imaginaires ou par les dispositifs que nous mettrons à votre disposition questionnants la matérialité de l’invisible. Des boissons et une petite collation seront également proposées aux participants. Venez nombreux à la découverte des fantômes et leurs modes d’apparitions, vous mettre en quête de ces histoires intrigantes et singulières.

Pour venir: La Ferme du Bonheur, infos pratiques!

Poster Ghosts PRINT

2014 — Retoucher les morts

Illustration article Retoucher les morts

Retoucher les morts. Les usages magiques de la photographie en Mongolie

Published in Terrain 62 (2014), pp. 138–151.

DOI: 10.4000/terrain.15390

Summary: When somebody dies in Mongolia it is customary to make a funerary portrait of the deceased based on an identity card photograph which is then enlarged, coloured and touched up. Such a portrait is used during the funeral and is then placed near religious images close to the hearth of the house where the deceased lived before his, or her, death. These portraits are a kind of double of the dead via which the deceased can receive offerings from close kins during the period of mourning and afterwards. Photographs have an indexical and iconic value which derives from the fact that they are both a trace of the deceased and that they resemble them. In Mongolia as elsewhere this gives them the magical power of reaching a person who is either far away or absent. In touching up the portraits of dead relatives the Mongols seem to go further in such magical uses of photography. When they retouch the image they are not only creating a support for their relation to the dead but they also seem to give themselves the means of transforming them.

Retoucher les morts
Illustration article open air treasure

2015 — An Open Air Treasure

Illustration article open air treasure

An Open Air Treasure in Mongolia. A Short History of the Uranium Mining Town of Mardai

Published in Japanese — Translated from English by Professor Tanase Jiro.

Original Title: Mongoru no “arawa naru takara”. Urankôzan toshi marudai ni tsuitei no oboegaki.

Published in Tanase Jiro & Shimamura Ippei (eds.), Sôgen to kôseki. Mongoru, Chibetto ni okeru shigenkaihatsu to kankyômondai (Steppe and Mine. Natural Resource Development and Environmental Problems in Mongolia and Tibet), Akashi Shoten, Tokyo, 2015, pp. 39–52.

An Open Air Treasure in Mongolia
Mongoru No Arawa Naru Takarapdf
vignette illustration article establishing misunderstanding

2014 — Establishing Mutual Misunderstanding

illustration article establishing misunderstanding

Establishing Mutual Misunderstanding. A Buryat Shamanic Ritual in Ulaanbatar

With Batchimeg Sambalkhundev.

Published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20/4 (2014), pp. 617–634.

DOI: 10.1111/1467–9655.12126

Summary: This article discusses a strange case of shamanic ritual performed for a Buryat family in Mongolia’s capital city Ulaanbaatar. This performance not only differs from those described in the regional literature, but it also seems to challenge some of the models used to account for ritual efficacy. Indeed, while the cathartic use of Buryat traumatic history to deal with a patient’s misfortune in shamanic rituals is quite well documented, this performance stands out for the uncompassionate hopelessness with which spirits spoke of the family’s fate as exiles in Mongolia. Meanwhile, the ever‐growing tension between participants, which culminated in an open crisis, would be a sure sign of a ritual failure had it not been the clear result of the shaman’s own efforts to establish mutual misunderstanding between the spirits, the patients, and herself. Drawing on a pragmatic approach to ritual efficacy, this article ponders on the specific purpose of a performance which seems to be aimed at creating a context of miscommunication between participants.

Establishing Mutual Misunderstanding
Illustration article drones

2017 — Comment pensent les drones

Illustration article drones

Comment pensent les drones. La détection et l’identification de cibles invisibles

Published in L’Homme 222 (2017), pp. 91–118

DOI: 10.4000/lhomme.30152

Summary: The ethical debates surrounding the use of combat drones by the United States for military operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen have tended to focus on the particular case of so‐called « personality strikes », whose declared purpose is to remotely assassinate high‐level representatives of « terrorist » organisations. Rather than previously identified people, however, the majority of drone strikes carried out nowadays by American drones actually target anonymous individuals, who come to be « identified » as « insurgents » on the basis of their behaviour as perceived from above. Within the context of this kind of attacks, referred to as « signature strikes », targets appear to drone operators through signs which require a collective interpretative process following their detection. Drawing on available data on this topic, and mostly on the transcript of an attack carried out in Afghanistan by the US Army in February 2010, this paper tries to chart how exactly invisible targets come to be identified as such by American combat drones.

Comment pensent les drones