Stéphane Gros | Why Marry?: Comparative Perspectives on Kinship, the House, and Marriage in the Eastern Himalayas

Lecture: Center for Chinese Studies | October 24 | 5-7 p.m. | Stephens Hall, 10 (ISAS Conf. Room)

 Stéphane Gros, Visiting Scholar at the Institute for 2017; Researcher, Centre for Himalayan Studies, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

 Alexander von Rospatt, Professor for Buddhist and South Asian Studies, and director of the Group in Buddhist Studies

 Institute for South Asia Studies, Himalayan Studies Program, Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS)

Join us for a talk by Dr. Stéphane Gros, Visiting Scholar at the Institute for 2017, is a Researcher at the Centre for Himalayan Studies, CNRS-France, who works in the areas of Himalayan Studies, Social Anthropology, Ethnicity, Kinship and Gender, and Popular Religion.

Talk Abstract
What we think of family and marriage today is being rapidly redefined in ways far exceeding the terms of the anthropological debate around the marriage customs of the Nayar of Kerala in the 1950s. More recently, the so-called “visiting system” of the Na (Moso) of Southwest China came as a new challenge to conventional understandings of the universality of marriage and anthropological definitions of the family. This talk aims at discussing this “visiting system”—a kind of non-contractual sexual relationships associated with natolocal residence—by presenting the preliminary results of fieldwork research conducted in the Tibetan region of ‘Drapa (nDrapa) where a form of visiting partnership similar to that of the Na (Moso) is found.

Such a practice has often been described as a form of union based on a matrilineal rule of descent. I propose to shift the angle of analysis to foreground the importance of the household as a key social unit. I argue that the visiting system is not dependent on the respect of a matrilineal descent rule. The prime factor to be taken into consideration here is the importance of maintaining some continuity in the household. I will discuss matrifocality in relation to household-centric orientation and the importance of the “house”—and the applicability of the notion of “house-society”—and call for cross-regional comparisons.

Speaker Bio
Stéphane Gros is a researcher at the Centre for Himalayan Studies, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (C.N.R.S., France). A social anthropologist by training (PhD. Paris-Nanterre University, 2005), he has published a monograph entitled La Part Manquante (Société d’ethnologie, 2012) about the Drung (Dulong), a long-deprived minority of swidden agriculturalists of Yunnan province (China). This book engages with a broad array of theoretical and political debates and explores many themes that fall within the purview of a classical ethnographic enterprise: kinship, religion, mythology, exchange, domestic organization, and gender relations—particularly the seldom researched practice of facial tattooing among Drung women.

He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters on issues of interethnic relations and ethnic classification, representations of ethnic minorities, poverty and categorization, as well as rituals and cosmology. He has edited or co-edited four collections of relevance to ethnographic theory, Chinese studies, and area studies. He has served as Managing Editor (2011-2014) for the launch of the open-access anthropology journal Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory.

For the last four years, he was the Principal Investigator for a European-Research-Council-funded project (Starting Grant No. 283870, 2012-2016) titled Territories, Communities, and Exchanges in the Kham Sino-Tibetan Borderlands. In the framework of this project, the multidisciplinary team investigated topics such as trade, territoriality, cultural politics among others.

More recently, Stéphane Gros’ personal research investigates aspects of kinship and social organization, conversion to Christianity, as well as heritage politics and environmental discourses in this region.

Event made possible with the support of the Sarah Kailath Chair of India Studies

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