Seminar – 13 June – Martin Mills

June 6th, 2017 by anna.c


Tuesday 13  June 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Martin Mills

University of Aberdeen

Last Gift of the God-King: Negotiating Constitutional Ownership in the Wake of the Dalai Lama’s Resignation

The resignation in November 2011 of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama from political office presented the Tibetan Government-in-Exile (now called the Central Tibetan Administration, or CTA) with profound constitutional challenges. The exiled Tibetan administration based in Dharamsala, India – with its triumvirate institutions of executive, legislature and judiciary – had been regulated, at least in theory, by the Charter of Tibetans in Exile, a Charter which nonetheless gave supreme sovereign authority over the Tibetan refugee settlements and administration to the Dalai Lama. His retirement from political office entailed not just his resignation, but the entire separation of his religious estate and lineage – the Ganden Podrang – from exiled political governance. These events, directed almost in entirety by the Dalai Lama himself, forced the CTA, perhaps for the first time in history, to endeavour to formally articulate the actual powers and responsibilities of a sitting (if exiled) Dalai Lama, precisely so that they could be delegated to others. Based on interviews with past and present prime ministers of the CTA, and members of the Charter Reform Committee, this paper examines the difficulties and disagreements and revelations involved in the exiled Tibetan administration’s hesitant moves towards ‘secular democracy’.

Lunchtime Film Screening – 6 June – Losing Ground, a film by Bradley Rappa

May 23rd, 2017 by anna.c

A lunchtime film screening will be held in the Mond Building Seminar Room, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RF

Wednesday 6 June 2017, 1.00–2.00

All welcome

Losing Ground, a film by Bradley Rappa

The film is 30 minutes long and will be followed by questions

Poster here

Seminar – 30 May – Michael Puett

May 18th, 2017 by anna.c


Tuesday 30  May 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Michael Puett

University of Harvard

Master, Host, Demon, God

Hosting is a key notion among the mobile societies of Inner Asia.  But it is an equally recurrent theme among the relatively sedentary societies of China.  This paper will attempt to develop the comparative implications of the concept of hosting by exploring the theme across a wide range of practices in China in which the interplay of the sedentary and the mobile plays a major role.  I will argue that, when taken seriously, hosting allows us to rethink many of our other anthropological categories, including cosmology, kinship, and kingship.

Seminar – 16 May – Anastasia Piliavsky

May 5th, 2017 by anna.c


Tuesday 16  May 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Anastasia Piliavsky

University of Cambridge

Masterhood, hierarchy and political responsibility in North India’s democratic politics

Idioms of masterhood, patronage and kingship in India’s popular politics have prompted suggestions that India is not a true representative democracy, where sovereign citizens hold politicians responsible for delivering what they want, but a top-down system of inequality and coercive rule. I suggest that, to the contrary, the democratic process I have observed over a dozen years across rural and urban northern India, is robustly representative. What confuses external analysts is the fact that here hierarchy – and the hierarchical master-servant relations - which we treat as democracy’s greatest foe, is itself the core structure of representation and mechanism of political responsibility. I show that to place demands on politicians and hold them responsible, voters deliberately and insistently elevate leaders above themselves as patrons or masters. It is precisely through this relation that they can demand political responsibility. My ethnography further challenges the equation of power and status, which is widely assumed in social analysis today – the idea that the higher a person stands the more power they have over others. I show that hierarchy, as a structure of expectations, upturns this formulation. Superiors have more power, but they also bear a greater degree of responsibility, an idea that gives those below great leverage over political grandees, who must act according to their standing. These are, of course, ideal horizons, but their force is not diminished by the difficulty of their attainment.

Seminar – 2 May – Charlotte Bruckermann

April 27th, 2017 by anna.c


Tuesday 2  May 2017

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

Charlotte Bruckermann

Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology

The Mistress of the Hearth: female mobility, domestic divinities, and reproductive power in North Central China

Anthropological concepts of masterhood and hospitality are particularly elaborated among highly mobile people whose movements put them into constant contact with strangers to whom they may extend hospitality and thereby assume sovereignty over these guests. In the sedentary Han Chinese context, offering kindnesses to strangers as hospitality is deemed less important than hosting known relations. For instance, humans host deities as their masters, and thereby extend the male household or community hosts’ sovereignty over attendees. This paper examines how this interplay between mobility and hosting plays out for Chinese women in north-central Shanxi Province, where women’s sociality is ruptured by mobility as they move at marriage and become outsiders of the patrilineages for whom they bear offspring. Women subvert their outsider status within Chinese kinship by appealing to a divine mistress of the hearth both as a stranger and as kin. Women also compete to extend their sovereignty over kin across domestic divides by hosting celebrations of their reproductive powers and thereby claim offspring. The analytical crux between female mobility and the mistress/hostess reveals the subversive potential of being both stranger and kin, situated both outside of and at the centre of reproduction