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Dark Tent and Light Tent

Two Ways of Travelling in the Invisible

Charles Stépanoff


Humans have a unique ability to coordinate their imaginations and together explore virtual spaces. Shamanic traditions have cultivated this ability and developed powerful techniques to share mental travels. This article discusses two basic types of shamanic seance spread among indigenous peoples in North Asia and partly in North America and explores the relational and sensory-cognitive contrasts between these ritual techniques. One is carried out in the dark and the audience is more focused on hearing, while in the other the tent is light and watching the shaman’s act is a central part of the participants’ experience. This article describes the geographical distribution of these rituals and analyses the different ways in which they divide cognitive labour.

Caroline Humphrey

Nationalist Sentiments Obscured by ‘Pejorative Labels’

Birthplace, Homeland and Mobilisation against Mining in Mongolia

Dulam Bumochir


This paper aims to unveil sources of nationalist sentiments that are often disregarded, in part because they are often given ‘pejorative labels’ such as ‘populist’ and ‘resource nationalist’ by those who promote the market economy and mining industry. Anthropologists can extend their research beyond such labelling and find out what is at the origin of such popular mobilisations and consequent political decisions against mining. I find that the culturally accepted term nutag, which means birthplace, homeland and country of origin, is the basic source of nationalist sentiments that resist mining. The term nutag has evolved from meaning one’s naturally related birthplace to referring also to the politically independent country of Mongolia. The ideas associated with the original meaning make such nationalist sentiments different from, and much broader than, the idea of controlling natural resources indicated by the term ‘resource nationalism’.

Anna Sehnalova


The paper focuses on one of the most sacred mountains of Tibet, A-myes-rma-chen, located in east Tibet (contemporary mGo-log Prefecture, Qinghai Province, People’s Republic of China). It deals mainly with two topics: the ongoing vivid revitalisation of the cult of the mountain and its deity since the Cultural Revolution, and how this interacts with the current changes at the site due to state-planned modernisation and development within the ‘Great Development of the West’ (Xibu da kaifa) strategy extensively implemented since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Particular attention is paid to the recent great circumambulation pilgrimage to A-myes-rma-chen, performed once every 12 years in a Horse Year, which took place in 2014/15, in the Horse Year 2143 of the Tibetan calendar. The article shows the present form of the pilgrimage, its reflection of and accustomisation to these changes, and the resulting quick transformation of the institution of pilgrimage. Pilgrims’ and local people’s understandings and views, alterations and modifications of their behaviour and pilgrimage practice, as well as actual reactions, are discussed. The article argues that the site of A-myes-rma-chen is currently being reinterpreted by the state in a secularised, commodifying and territorialising discourse in order to incorporate the area more closely, both politically and culturally. A-myes-rma-chen thus represents a space contested by different cultural and interest groups.

Richard Taupier


This paper draws on primary Oyirod and Mongol sources concerning the rise of the seventeenth-century Jöüngars. It relies on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Mongolian historical texts to identify the 1638 creation of an Oyirod Jöüngar [Left Wing] and Baroun Gar [Right Wing]. This origin of the Jöüngars differs substantially from historical accounts that project existence of a Jöüngar to an earlier time. From Sarayin Gerel [Moon Light] and other sources we learn that the creation of the Jöüngar Khanate was sudden and even unlikely after the division of Baatar Khong Tayiji’s people among his sons. The Jöüngars were so weakened by this division that the Dalai Lama gave the title of Chechen Khaan to the Khoshoud Ochirtu Tayiji in 1666. The Yeke Caaji [Great Code] describes Oyirod political organisation in 1640. Sarayin Gerel also provides details of the reign of Galdan Boshugtu from 1672 until 1692.

The Ruler, the Wrestler, and the Archer

A Mongolian Way of Dwelling

Grégory Delaplace


This paper is an attempt to understand dwelling in Mongolia as the cultivated balancing of three interconnected virtues, prominently exhibited by some particular characters and exemplary people, yet actually to varying degrees expected from anybody else. These virtues are skilfulness (being mergen), force (hiimor’) and power or diplomacy (erh); they are best embodied by archers, wrestlers and rulers, respectively. Drawing on three ethnographic vignettes featuring a troubled diviner, an unlucky young man and a confused anthropologist, this paper highlights how different kinds of people strive to dwell well in post-socialist Mongolia, associating elements that compose the world they live in and checking the conditions in which they might impose themselves in it.