Shamans and Elders: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Daur Mongols

Uradyn E. Bulag wrote the following letter to soc.culture.mongolian:

I'd like to bring to your attention a new book published by the Oxford University Press: Shamans and Elders: Experience, Knowledge, and Power among the Daur Mongols (written by Caroline HUMPHREY with Urgunge ONON). The book is published in both paper back (ISBN: 0-19-828068-8) and hard back issues (ISBN: 0-19-827941-8). 396p. The jacket of the book reads:

Shamans and Elders is a major study of Mongolian shamanism and society, past and present. It presents a wealth of new information, and offers a fresh understanding of the widespread phenomenon of shamanism.

This unique and detailed analysis of a fascinating subject combines the insights from a long series of conversions held with Urgunge Onon and Caroline Humphrey's text- and field-based analysis of Inner Asian shamanism. The book aims to place shamanic practice in the history and politics of early 20th-century Manchuria. Among other things it covers the nature and transmission of shamanic knowledge; notions of gender in Mongolian society, including male and female traditions in ritual; attitudes to death and regeneration; the importance of different types of ancestry in power relations of elders and shamans, and their relation to state rule; and Daur notions of landscape within their direct experience (the importance of the sky, of the mountains, of the forest, rivers, etc.) and beyond.

In covering these diverse areas, the authors depart from the general cultural models usually offered in discussions of shamanism, providing a new vision of 'shamanism' as made up of fragmentary parts based on different types of knowledge. They give much-needed insight into a little-known world, and point to an original new way of conducting anthropology.

Caroline Humphrey is a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. She is Director of the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, and has been Reader in Asian Anthropology at the University of Cambridge since 1994.

Urgunge Onon is the General Manager, Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit, Cambridge University. He is a Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge (where he was previously a Visiting Fellow), and he is Honorary Professor at the Mongolian State University.



Uradyn E. Bulag

Corpus Christi College

Cambridge University