Regional fields


Thematic fields

social and cultural anthropology, religious anthropology, performance studies, legal anthropology


South Asia, India, Kerala, Hinduism, Christianity, castes, Hindu temples and rites, festivals, divine mediumship and spirit possession, witchcraft, astrology, theatre, body, heritage, law courts

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Astrologist, Kerala, 1999 (photo G. Tarabout)

In 1986 at the EHESS (l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales / School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences), Gilles Tarabout completed a PhD thesis in social anthropology and ethnology on temple festivals in Kerala (South India), under the supervision of Marie-Louise Reiniche and Madeleine Biardeau. Subsequent projects – all on Kerala – focused on the social morphology of the region and on various themes of religious anthropology (festivals, divine mediumship and spirit possession, witchcraft, astrology) as well as some theatrical practices. His approach, initially marked by the structuralism of Louis Dumont and Madeleine Biardeau, evolved towards an account of social heterogeneities, of historical dynamics, and of power relationships and conflict. His current work mainly explores how the Indian courts manage lawsuits relating to Hindu temples.

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Competition between village factions carrying temporary buildings, Kerala, 1983 (photo G. Tarabout)

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Young boy with a ghost mask, Kerala, 1982 (photo G. Tarabout)

He joined the CNRS in 1988, first in the Centre for Indian and South Asian Studies, where he remained until 2009, when he assumed the post of Director of the LESC (Centre for Ethnology and Comparative Sociology, 2010-2013). He was the head of the social sciences exchange program between France and India at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme from 2002 to 2005, and was subsequently Deputy Director of the Social Sciences Department of the CNRS (2006).

His personal research has regularly been conducted in association with the successive programmes that he has been coordinating for the past 20 years: on violence and the notion of “non-violence” in India; on the process of acculturation of Islam and Christianity; on divine mediumship and spirit possession; on the images of the body in Hinduism; on the historical transformation of Hindu rites; and, more recently, on the anthropology of judicial practices.

Principal publications

  • 2013 eds (with D. Berti), Les Frontières de la loi. Justice, pouvoirs et politique [special issue], Diogène, 239-240 (July-October 2012) .
  • 2012 eds (with S. Dreyfus-Asséo, D. Cupa and G. Chaudoye), Les Ancêtres (Paris, Éditions EDK).
  • 2009 eds (with D. Berti),Territory, soil, and society in South Asia (New Delhi, Manohar).
  • 2006 eds (with G. Colas), Rites hindous: transferts et transformations (Paris, EHESS) [Purusartha, 25].
  • 2002 eds (with V. Bouillier), Images du corps dans le monde hindou (Paris, CNRS Éditions) [Monde indien].
  • 1999 eds (with J. Assayag), La possession en Asie du Sud. Parole, corps, territoire (Paris, EHESS) [Purusartha, 21].
  • 1997 eds (with J. Assayag), Altérité et identité. Islam et christianisme en Inde (Paris, EHESS) [Purusartha, 19].
  • 1994 eds (with D. Vidal and E. Meyer), Violences et non-violences en Inde (Paris, EHESS) [Purusartha, 16] [english: Violence/Non violence. Some Hindu perspectives, Delhi, Manohar, 2003].
  • 1986 Sacrifier et donner à voir en pays Malabar. Les fêtes de temple au Kérala (Inde du Sud): étude anthropologique (Paris, École Française d’Extrême-Orient) [Publications de l’EFEO, 147].


Publications available at the Éric-de-Dampierre library


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Mis à jour le 16 January 2014

Directeur de recherche, CNRS
[Research Professor CNRS]