Accepted paper:

Theriomorphism and lycanthropy in India: metamorphosis of an environmental and social system


Stefano Beggiora (University Ca' Foscari of Venice)

Paper short abstract:

We propose an analysis about the folklore of an aboriginal community in India; here the modernity, the economic boom and the need for resources have brought dramatic changes in the social and environmental layout of the jungle strongly affecting the local cultural strategies of adaptation.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims to investigate the religion, myths and rituals - but also the social structure and cultural heritage - of an Indian ādivāsī (indigenous) group: the Kondhs. The research is principally focused at investigating a set of beliefs and magical-religious practices that are at the base of the phenomenon of the pālṭa bāgha: a case of therianthropy (human to animal transformation). The comparison between the colonial sources and the fieldwork outline a series of 'narratives' that seem to be located within a background of witchcraft accusations. The data creating the socio-ethnographical context are collected in and around the town of Phulbani, the headquarter of the Kandhamal district (Orissa), between 2001 and 2006, in order to. Here the theme of the metamorphosis between man and animal overlaps the phenomena of the modernity that today imposes dramatic changes in the environment and social local system. The conclusions, emphasizing the cultural importance of folklore and indigenous knowledge, propose some reflections on the themes of ecology, development and sustainability.

panel Rur004
Market-oriented global discourses and the reshaping of rural spaces