Accepted Paper:

U Thlien: from folklore to reality… even anthropologists can be cursed!  


Emilie Parent (University of Montreal)

Paper short abstract:

Among the Khasis of India, the belief in witchcraft is widespread. U Thlien- a snake demon demanding blood sacrifice-is actual and part of everyday life. As a newcomer, the anthropologist may at first think he is safe from curses and black magic. But his illusions are rapidly shattered when all the signs are pointing to the fact that he has been cursed. What to do? To whom should he reach for healing? How should we interpret this phenomenon?

Paper long abstract:

The Khasis live in North East India. Beliefs in witchcraft and black magic are still widespread, even in urban settings. Among these, U Thlien is the most ancient and feared practice. According to the legend, some Khasi clans worship at night a demon-like snake. In order to satisfy the snake, the worshippers must feed him human blood. In return, the snake blesses them with wealth and prosperity. Some curses can only affect Khasi people, but anthropologist can and will be cursed. How to react to such an event? How can we heal from such a curse? In this paper, I will analyze how the body of the anthropologist can be cursed and healed despite his outsider status and I will be putting forward new ways of approaching witchcraft.

Panel MB-AMS01
Between experiencing and ethnographizing in practice-based research