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MEETINGS 2013-2017

422nd Meeting : "Beetle fighting and Northern Thai cosmology”. 

Tuesday, 26 September, 2017.

A Talk by Stéphane Rennesson

The Talk:

This talk is a story of a game that builds upon an uncanny cooperation between human beings and insects. Rhinoceros beetles (xylotrupes Gideon, or as they are known in Thailand: แมงชนกวาง: maeng kwaang chon) are found all over Southeast Asia. However, only in Northern Thailand does the human–insect relationship reach the refined, institutionalized level characterized by “kwaang fighting”. These competitions,
which stir the passion of thousands of players each year between September and December, give original insights on the specific process through which Lanna people develop local ecological wisdom. It will be shown that it isn’t so much the coleoptera that symbolize a harmonious connection built by human populations with their natural environment. It is more a question of what happens in the intimate relationship between human beings and insects. Are the fights won because of the natural characteristics of individual beetles, or is it due to the daily training that players impose on them?

Each year each player hopes to find the “King of Kwaang”, the only one that wouldn’t need any help from its owner, easily beating its opponents thanks to its almost magical power! The talk will examine what, exactly, humans share with beetles; whether beetles can be tamed or controlled and do they have feelings, a brain or a soul? By observing technical and conceptual handling of the kwaang, we consider the claim by players to “know the deep nature of beetles” and offer an original window upon the local cosmology.
at the time.

The Speaker

fter a long participative fieldwork in Thailand as a boxer, a trainer and a promoter, Stéphane Rennesson has written an in-depth ethnography of the world of Thai Boxing in its country of origin. After that he has been working on other numerous games that are very much structured and that meet popular success in Thailand. He is mainly interested in competitions that require uncanny collaborations between human and various animals such as animal fights (beetles, cocks, fishes, buffaloes) and bird signing contests (Striated Doves and Red Bulbuls). Working for the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) since 2009, he also has taught anthropology at the Institut d’Etudes Politique of Paris. Based now in Bangkok at the Institut de Recherche sur l'Asie du Sud-Est Contemporaine (IRASEC) since January 2017, he carries on a study on the recent developments of the mythic and ritual complex around the figure of Nagas in Northeastern Thailand at the crossroad of anthropology of nature and anthropology of religion.

Want to read more? ....click "HERE"(PDF File for downloading or reading online - 18 pages).


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