Hus og handling
En analyse af udveksling og betydningsdannelse blandt tibetanere i en landsby i Det Autonome Tibetanske Præfektur Dechen

Hus og handling: En analyse af udveksling og betydningsdannelse blandt tibetanere i en landsby i Det Autonome Tibetanske Præfektur Dechen Kathrine Krøijer Hørsted DK 314 K
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This thesis examines the meaning of the Tibetan house as a social phenomenon among the Gyethang-Tibetan people. The empirical material derives from seven months of fieldwork carried out in a village of around 60 households. Living with a family there provided the opportunity of learning everyday skills, participating in house building events, and of reaching an understanding of the importance of the house in terms of how family members exchanged within the family as well as in relation to fellow villagers.

To avoid overemphasizing the importance of Buddhist religious ideas for an understanding of meaning among Tibetans, I favor the pragmatic, and a focus on action is thus the primary basis for the analysis.

Drawing on the notion of reciprocity, especially in the form defined by Marshall Sahlins as 'generalized reciprocity', which I develop to emphasize - instead of balance - obligation, and the aspect of time, I examine how the meaning of the house is embedded in the way people act towards each other. It appears that this (re-emphasized) generalized reciprocity is able to conceptualize the local moral. This moral is part of the meaning of the house, which both informs the actions of exchange and is generated through these actions. The moral therefore becomes an actualization of the meaning of the house and of being indebted to others.

By focusing on the house building process and especially by making the important event 'gedong-hlong' the analytical point of departure, I show how the villagers (through their actions of exchange) socially commit themselves to each other through the individual family house. Using Marcel Mauss' theory concerning the spirit in the gift, I argue that by giving their work to the house building family, the villagers embed themselves in the materials of the new house. I further argue that this spiritual embeddedness demands certain actions of exchange from the people living in the house and these indicate coherence between the seemingly public and private spheres in society.

The thesis is a contribution to the anthropology of housing in the sense that it widens the regional field explored within this theme, and more importantly - in the sense that it combines housing with the notion of reciprocity - my analysis shows how a focus on the house as a social phenomenon can shed light on the cultural sociality, the local moral world, and the relationships between the households instead of emphasizing the kinship relations.

Parting with symbolical and cognitive approaches of understanding the house as a cosmological entity, I argue that by observing the actions of exchange in this empirical context, we can conceive the house as a socially and spiritually meaningful entity. We can understand the house as a process that people interact with and generate through their actions of exchange. The meaning of the house thus becomes all the work given by the villagers during the construction process and by the family members through their daily physical and spiritual maintenance. All this work reflects the relation to and respect for other social beings, and the unspoken knowledge that as a family you rely on invitations and help from fellow villagers – a fact which the main pillar biga symbolically reminds the family of in their daily life. If it is traditionally said that deceased ancestors dwell as spirits in the house, then in this Tibetan context, that is equally true of the living fellow villagers.