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Department of Social Anthropology


Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz (University of Bern) 

Essentializing the Other: The encounter of Tibetan Buddhists with böge and udaγan in 17th and 18th century Mongolia


Please note this talk is online only. Please email for the zoom link

The implementation of Tibetan Buddhism in the Mongolian regions from the late 16th century onwards led to confrontations between Buddhist monks and indigenous religious specialists, the böge and udaγan/iduγan. These encounters have left their traces in a variety of Mongolian sources belonging to different literary genres (among others, historical chronicles, biographies, Buddhist ritual texts, colophons, terminological dictionaries, petitions to banner regents). In my presentation, I will examine this corpus of texts for its defining statements that have shaped the historical discourse surrounding various religious protagonists, individuals, and groups, as well as the Buddhist and non-Buddhist concepts associated with them. I will show that the new Buddhist elites, in a discursive process of singularization and reification, condensed selected local religious practices and rituals performed by the indigenous religious specialists into a “doctrine of the böge” which in the process of the interpretive appropriation of reality became a category of collective perception of reality. With it, at the same time, the line to the "Buddhist teaching" was drawn. Discursively created reification processes such as this are often still regarded as a unique feature of European intellectual history. I argue that the historical Mongolian-Tibetan Buddhist discourse on the religious "other" has informed current Mongolian constructions of so called “shamanism” that now constitute a field of global interaction. My talk is therefore also intended to contribute to the reappraisal of the role that non-European epistemic distinctions played and still play in the process of the formation of knowledge orders in a global modernity.

Tuesday, 24 October, 2023 - 16:30
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