Accepted paper:

Learning not to be a master - or the necessity of misunderstanding in fieldwork among the thầy cúng of Vietnam

Authors:

Paul Sorrentino (Université Paris Descartes)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will question my research as a disciple of a thầy cúng (master of ritual) in Vietnam, where misunderstanding appears as a necessary condition of possibility of fieldwork and a revelator of specific issues related to the activities of these specialists in contemporary Vietnam.

Paper long abstract:

Learning not to be a master - or the necessity of misunderstanding in fieldwork among the thầy cúng of Vietnam Based on fieldwork conducted during the last four years for my Masters and doctoral research in Hanoi and the Red River delta (Vietnam), this paper will question the modalities of my presence in the field and the role of misunderstanding in the negociation of these modalities. A part of my research consisting in studying the activities of thầy cúng (masters of ritual), I became the disciple of one of these specialists. Thus, I got involved in a long (and still ongoing) process of learning whereas I lacked several of the necessary conditions expected from a novice. The paper will focus on this master-disciple relationship and will attempt to show how an initial misunderstanding extended throughout time and actually appeared to make the relationship viable in spite of deep contradictions. Misunderstanding will then turn out to be a condition of possibility of fieldwork itself, but also a revelator of specific issues related to the transmission of the skills of the thầy cúng in contemporary Vietnam. Indeed, the misunderstanding surrounding (founding ?) this master-disciple relationship can be seen as an expression of a tension between two necessary but contradictory attitudes (openness and secrecy), both appearing to have a new meaning in the context of vietnamese « ritual revival. »

panel IW004
Towards an anthropology of misunderstanding (EN)