Regional fields

Taiwan, China, Fujian

Thematic fields

gender categories, female representations, religion, myths, rituals, writing


China, women, maternity, Daoism, Tantrism, shamanism, writing, psychoanalysis

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Incense offering to receive a dream,
Fujian (photo A. Sounier)

Brigitte Baptandier is an ethnologist and Sinologist. Her research, first in Taiwan (1979) and then in China (in Fujian, where she has been going regularly since 1986, in Jiangxi and in Hunan since 2004) initially focused on gender categories, the feminine, as well as representations of maternity and the female body in the myths and rituals of Chinese religion. She is interested in the Lushan Daoist tradition, which borrows many characteristics from Tantric Buddhism, and features healing and exorcism rituals similar to those of shamanism. Its ritual masters often act in cooperation with mediums. Brigitte Baptandier has therefore dealt with the question of trance, which she considers an elaboration of the self. This approach opens the door to a particular anthropology of the self, some elements of which serve as catalysts, particularly the manipulation of subjects in genealogies (adoption), dreams, categories of the self, of doubles and of transference. Brigitte Baptandier analyses these in relation to psychoanalysis.

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Jade Emperor talisman
(photo B. Baptandier)

This field of Chinese religion and culture offers for analysis a corpus of texts (rituals, theatre, “novels”, collections of myths, legends, storytellers’ tales, chants) and writing practices (divinatory, talismanic, canonical, and relating to seals) that force us to take into account, from a particular angle, the relationship between writing and the body. How and where is the line crossed between image and writing? What is the specific nature of the ethnology conducted within writing societies? And how are texts made into anthropological objects? Brigitte Baptandier directed an LESC seminar (1996-2008) that addressed these questions, assembling experts specialising in writing societies in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Brigitte Baptandier teaches Chinese ethnology in the Department of Ethnology at the University of Paris West Nanterre La Défense (since 1981). She was the scientific secretary of Section 38 of the CNRS (1995-2000). In 1999 she founded the LESC’s “China Workshop” (“Chiner la Chine”, Ateliers 24, 2001). Its collective research on Expo 2010 in Shanghai (Better City, Better Life) will soon be published. She is currently general secretary of the Ethnology Society, co-director of the collection “Recherches sur la Haute-Asie” (“Research on Upper Asia”) and director of the “Écriture” collection.

Principal publications

  • 2012, Du meurtre symbolique du père et de l’aspect insaisissable du présent, Extrême-Orient, Extrême Occident: 277–311 [special issue: Romain Graziani, Rainier Lanselle (ed.), Père Institué, Père questionné].
  • 2012, Des ancêtres, de la malemort et des dieux, in Sylvie Dreyfus-Asséo, Gilles Tarabout, Dominique Cupa, Guillemine Chaudoye (eds), Les Ancêtres (Paris, EDK): 105–112.
  • 2012, Le corps dans le Taiji quan et dans la psychanalyse, in Le corps présent dans la cure de psychanalyse?: 1–7 [Colloque franco-chinois de psychanalyse, Institut de recherche sur la psychanalyse, Chengdu, Chine].
  • 2012 ed. (with A.-C. Trémon), Chines, L’État au Musée [special issue], Gradhiva, 16.
  • 2008 eds (with G. Charuty), Du corps au texte. Approches comparatives (Nanterre, Société d’ethnologie).
  • 2008, The Lady of Linshui. A Chinese female cult (Stanford, Stanford University Press).
  • 2003, Façonner la divinité en soi. À la recherche d’un lieu d’énonciation, Ethnologies, 25 (1): 109–152 [special issue: A. Marshall (ed.), Negotiating transcendence/Négocier la transcendance: expressions de la performance extatique dans la religion et le théâtre].
  • 2001 ed., De la malemort. En quelques pays d’Asie (Paris, Karthala) [Hommes et Sociétés].
  • 1996 ed., Chine: facettes d’identité [special issue], L’Homme, 137.
  • 1996, Entrer en montagne pour y rêver. Le mont des pierres et des bambous, Terrain, 26: 99–122 [special issue: G. Charuty (ed.), Rêver].


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


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Mis à jour le 11 September 2014

Directeur de recherche émérite, CNRS
[Emeritus Research Professor CNRS]