English version below
Samuele Poletti a obtenu son doctorat en anthropologie sociale à l'Université d'Édimbourg en 2019, avec une thèse intitulée “In the Shadows of Death: An Existential Approach to Mortality in the Sinja Valley of Western Nepal”. Sa recherche doctorale s'est concentrée sur la (ou les) perception(s) de la mort dans la vallée de Sinja du district de Jumla (nord-ouest du Népal), et la manière dont cela peut éclairer les façons dont les gens donnent un sens à leur existence.
Samuele est maintenant post-doctorant au Laboratoire d'ethnologie et de sociologie comparative (LESC) de l'Université Paris Nanterre, où il travaille sur un projet de recherche sur les répercussions existentielles que la conversion au christianisme au Népal a sur l'expérience de la personnalité, financé par le Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique (FNS).
Outre le recours à l'instrument classique de l'écriture académique, Samuele s'intéresse aux possibilités que la photographie peut offrir comme moyen complémentaire à la description ethnographique, notamment en raison d'une immédiateté communicative pas toujours possible dans le texte écrit.
Samuele Poletti was awarded his Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh in 2019, with a thesis entitled “In the Shadows of Death: An Existential Approach to Mortality in the Sinja Valley of Western Nepal”. His doctoral research focused on the perception(s) of death in the Sinja Valley of Jumla District (northwest Nepal), and how this may shed light upon the ways in which people make sense of existence.
Samuele is now a postdoctoral fellow at the Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative (LESC) at Université Paris Nanterre, where he is currently working on a research project about the existential repercussions that conversion to Christianity in Nepal has had on the experience of personhood, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF).
Besides resorting to the classic instrument of academic writing, Samuele is interested in the possibilities that photography may offer as a complementary means to the ethnographic description, not least by virtue of a communicative immediacy not always possible in the written text.
Because of a dream, my elderly friend Laxmi Narayan was convinced that his son Prithivi was the reincarnation of his late father. Their apparent contentment in not knowing the other’s ‘inner state’ challenges the assumption that coexistence is achieved through empathic approximations. Rather than strive to bridge the gap through a quasi-first-person perspective, this story suggests that Selves and Others can readily do without empathy in their encounters. Both ‘empathy’ and ‘sympathy’ envisage a very specific way of approaching the other, one which requires otherness to disappear, albeit in different ways. However, the respectful relationships of otherness described in these pages suggest that being-of-the-same-kind is not an essential precondition for being-with-others. This insight undergirds the theorisation of a form of hermeneutic respect crucial to appreciate the articulation of inter-personal and inter-generational relationships in the rapidly changing context of contemporary Nepal.
Is an experience the private matter of an inner individual self? The phantasmicide committed by Laxmi in Sinja, Nepal, with the assistance of his uncle suggests otherwise. The perception of a wandering spirit in Nepal, like that of a dragon in the Middle Ages, demonstrates how subjective experiences may sometimes acquire independence in the blurred margins where reality merges with imagination. This line of reasoning finds support in the indigenous view of personhood, according to which a person actualizes as a multitude of situational souls emerging in reaction to circumstances—circumstances to which these reactions may also be pinned. Instead of an outward projection of psychological life, the intersubjective life of the spirit coprotagonist of this affair encourages envisaging experiences as partially independent phenomena capable of acting back upon the experiencing self and being acted upon in turn as other free‐standing subjects. Highlighting the mutual inextricability of private interiority and worldly events, the chronicle of this Nepali phantasmicide fosters thus an alternative to psychological transference pointing toward an Intersubjective‐I that avoids constraining self and world within rigid boundaries.
Nepali astrological divination can be seen as a form sense-making which, in providing access to the ‘hidden motifs’ attained to determine life events, mitigates the irreducibility of being-in- the-world by providing existential narratives. Conveying hope to act upon what is initially approached as a hopeless fate, astrological knowledge forwards the perception that troubling events, apparently out of control, are also liable to be acted upon. This reveals a permanent tension between ‘fatalism’ and ‘freedom’ that challenges rendering Nepal exclusively in fatalist terms, as argued by the Nepali anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista. Yet, accounting for these reinterpretations requires a personally-tailored inquiry, usually overlooked by sociocentric approaches that patronizingly disregard people as mere carriers of a worldview, as in the case of the ontological turn.
Per apprendere ad abitare con dignità in questa società, paradossalmente occorre «uscire», per vederla e vedersi con altri sguardi e altre prospettive, soprattutto là dove si sono vissute esperienze in qualche modo distruttive. Tale affermazione riguarda le vite personali ma anche lo sviluppo dei territori. In entrambe le situazioni c’è di mezzo l’invadenza di stili abitativi che «dipendono» dalle logiche dell’attuale sistema socio-economico. Ma uscire non basta, se l’esperienza di contrappeso non è generativa di communitas, in spazi che rifondano i legami che, come «piode»o lose di un tetto, danno senso alla vita di un villaggio come di una persona.
Un antropologo in Nepal per compiere una ricerca, una storia e serie di imprevisti sono l’occasione per riflettere sul relativismo culturale o meglio ragionare sulle diverse modalità di essere-nel-mondo. Interrogarsi sul proprio sguardo e su quello altrui diventa necessario ogni qualvolta si incontra l’alterità e per poter sviluppare quella che l’autore definisce una "mente multiculturale" in grado di muoversi agilmente in contesti altri, pur rimanendo se stessi.