SALES Anne de

Regional fields

Nepal, Himalaya, Siberia

Thematic fields

religious and political anthropology, history of anthropology, shamanism, social change, oral literature, ritual


social and cultural transformations, commitment, emancipation, recognition, ethnicity, conflict, temporality, subjectivity, ethnographic knowledge, ritual language, ritualisation, sacrifice, belief, Kham-Magar, Chantyal

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(photo A. de Sales)

Anne de Sales initially worked on second-hand material concerning Siberia (the festival of the bear, shamanism) before turning her attention to Nepal, where she conducted a long field study (1981-1982) in the west of the country within a tribal community, the Kham-Magar. Her first publications centred on this population’s shamanic practices and ritual literature, specifically on the respective functions of gestures and words during healing sessions. In search of systemic consistency, these projects attempt to understand an exceptionally lively tradition, between Buddhist Tibet and Hindu India. She pursued the same themes within a neighbouring population of former copper miners who had begun a process of ethnogenesis, almost contemporaneous with her study. This new situation encouraged her to take a more historical and political view of the relations that these remote, rural communities maintain with the state.

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(photo A. de Sales)
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(photo A. de Sales)

After an initial uprising in 1990 that unleashed ten years of revolutionary insurrection (1996-2006), Anne de Sales focused her research on documenting and analysing social, political and cultural transformations of Nepalese rural peoples, specifically those from the Kham-Magar area, which Maoist rebels made into their bastion. Political current affairs, saturated as they were with incidents of violence, turned these observations into testimony, and introspectively changed her ethnographic relationship to her field. This new experience led her to reconsider the notion of social change, by beginning to reflect upon temporality and subjectivity rather than on anthropology and history. By giving special attention to placing the narrative voices of actors in their proper context, it was possible to make a distinction between the development of linear causalities and the range of contingencies that governed these events. Anne de Sales has also resumed studying oral literature and ritual language, which she approaches from the perspective of relations between institutions and ritualisation processes.

Principal publications

  • 2013, The crucible of the Revolution, in M. Lecomte-Tilouine (ed.), History and anthropology of the Nepal People’s War (New Delhi, Sage): 164–210.
  • 2013, From the borders of the country to the special district: The vicissitudes of the Kham-Magar history, in J. Smadja (ed.), Restructuring of the territories in the Himalayas (New Delhi, Adroit Publishers): 161–177.
  • 2012, Time, identity and historical change in the hills of Nepal, European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, 37: 106–126.
  • 2012, Ritual virtuosity, emotions and feelings in shamanic rituals (Nepal), in A. Michaels and C. Wulf (eds), Emotions in South Asia and European rituals (Londres, New York, New Delhi, Routledge): 161–170.
  • 2011, Hamro Gaon: Practices of belonging in rural Nepal, in J. Pfaff−Czanercka and G. Toffin (eds), The politics of belonging in the Himalayas: Local attachments and boundary dynamics (Los Angeles, Londres, New Delhi, Sage): 3–24.
  • 2011 eds (with M. Lecomte-Tilouine), The aftermath of the people’s war (Nepal), Studies in Nepali History and Society, 16 (2): 191–406.
  • 2010, The biography of a Magar communist, in D. Gellner (ed.), Varieties of activist experiences in South Asia (New Delhi, Sage): 18–45.
  • 2010 eds (with R. Parkin), Out of the study, into the field: Ethnographic theory and practice in French anthropology (Oxford, Berghahn).
  • 2001, Himalaya (photos Eric Valli) (Paris, Éditions de La Martinière).
  • 1991, Je suis né de vos jeux de tambours. La religion chamanique des Magar du Nord (Nanterre, Société d’ethnologie).



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Mis à jour le 16 January 2014

Directeur de recherche, CNRS
[Research Professor CNRS]