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The animal in the Asian imagination : alter or alter ego ?

L’animal dans l’imaginaire de l’Asie : alter ou alter ego ?

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Published on Tuesday, July 05, 2022


This conference proposes to explore the polysemy of the imaginary of the animal, especially the wild animal, in Asia and its functions: is it an "alter ego", a protective animal, bringing to humanity its own powers or a radical "alter", which represents a world other than humanity; what are the stakes of these various representations for humanity as well as for the sharing of the planet with the animal world? It seems to us that if man symbolically acquires the power of the animal, it is on the condition that he remains beyond a real or metaphorical man/animal border. Faced with the disappearance of primary spaces and non-modernized populations, the wild animal thus seems the ultimate reservoir of the anti-modern, of what escapes the anthropocene, what is not "for" humanity. 



This alter function is manifested, for example, in the tiger, whose power is appropriated by man in the "lion" dance (舞狮 / 舞獅; wǔshī), in traditional medicine that takes its bones, and in the Chinese zodiac for which it is one of the strongest signs. It is also found in its presence as the soldier's animal double in Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Uncle Boonmee", or as the protective animal of a Dalit in the novel The White Tiger by Indian Aravind Adiga. One also thinks of the Nāga snake, both a symbol - chtonian and aquatic -, retaining the real, naturalistic attributes of the animal in its various representations. It seems to us that if man symbolically acquires the power of the animal, it is on condition that he remains beyond a real or metaphorical man/animal boundary.

This physical boundary between man and animal is being crossed more and more frequently, notably through poaching, posing serious health risks for humanity, as demonstrated by the Covid pandemic. In this context, it seems useful to us to explore this tangential relationship and the stakes of this distancing or, on the contrary, of this coexistence with the wild animal - as well as potentially with the domestic animal in its dimension of otherness (for example, the sacred cow in Hinduism). It is postulated that the animal - bear, monkey, tiger, fox, snake - is invested with a radical, necessary otherness. Its total domestication or anthropomorphization would represent a danger, a loss of meaning. Faced with the disappearance of primary spaces and non-modernised peoples, the wild animal seems to be the ultimate reservoir of the anti-modern, of that which escapes the Anthropocene, that which is not "for" humanity. We therefore make two interlocking hypotheses: that animal representations in traditional cultures insist on the otherness of the animal, and that this has the function of a warning: that by trying too hard to domesticate the wild, humanity will lose a source of otherness that is essential to its physiological, but also spiritual survival.

This exploration will use literary, religious, ethnographic, artistic (all mediums), naturalistic, symbolic or fantastic representations: their modalities, ambiguïtés, dynamics.

Fields: history of representations of the animal in Asia from the Antiquity to the present day, in art (all media), in archaeology, in classical, folk and religious literature and all forms of ethnographic or popular representations, including commercials...

Submission guidelines

Send a proposal in the form of a 300-500 word abstract with keywords and a short bibliography (APA format) and a short biography of the author (three lines), with institutional affiliation if applicable to christine.vialkayser@asie-sorbonne.fr and secretariat@asie-sorbonne.fr

The conference is open to institutional and independent researchers, doctoral students, artists and authors. 

Language : communications can be in French or English


  • Deadline for receipt of abstracts 30 September 2022.

  • Response to participants October 30.
  • This international Conference is organised by the Asie-Sorbonne Association and will take place on 13th and 14th January 2023.
  • The symposium will be followed by a publication on the review of the final texts by 2023.

Scientific committee

  • Christine Vial Kayser, HDR, presidente d'Asie-Sorbonne, Art contemporain asiatique
  • Edith Parlier-Renault, Professeur, directrice de Creops-Paris Sorbonne Université, indologue
  • Marie Laureillard, HDR, Maiître de conférences à Lyon 2, études chinoises
  • Karine Ladrech, membre du Creops, MCF à Paris Sorbonne Université, indologue

Bibliographic elements

(all web links active as of June 20, 2022)

Ambros, B. (2014, August). Animals in Japanese Buddhism: The third path of existence. Religion Compass, Vol. 8, No. 8. DOI:10.1111/rec3.12118

Chapouthier, G. (2009). Réflexions sur l'altérité et l'animalité. Revue philosophique de la France et de l'Étranger, Vol. 134, 2, pp. 207–216. Https://www.cairn.info/revue-philosophique-2009-2-page-207.htm

Diény, J.-P. (1987). Le symbolisme du dragon dans la Chine antique, Vol. XXVII, Collège de France, Institut des Hautes études chinoises, Paris.

Ferrari, F. & Thomas Dänhardt, T. (2013). Charming beauties and frightful beasts. Non-human animals in South Asian myth, ritual and folklore, Equinox Publishing.

Glorisun Charitable Foundation (2018). Buddhist beasts: Reflections on animals in Asian religions and culture. Summary of contributions to the eponymous conference. https://glorisunglobalnetwork.org/buddhist-beasts-reflections-on-animals-in-asian-religions-and-culture-abstracts/

Chircop-Reyes, L. et Loïc Aloisio, L. (2019). L'Éthique animale dans les littératures d'Asie. Impressions d’Extrême-Orient, 10. Https://doi.org/10.4000/ideo.1157 (See also call for papers Https://animots.hypotheses.org/6773

Keck, F. (2020). Les sentinellesdes pandémies : Chasseurs de virus et observateurs d'oiseaux aux frontières de la Chine. (V. Despret, préface). Zones sensibles.

Korff-Sausse, S. (2011). Les identifications déshumanisantes : L'animalité dans la vie psychique et la création artistique.  Revue française de psychanalyse, Vol. 75, no. 1, pp. 87–

Le Renard : tours, détours & retours (1984). Études mongoles et sibériennes. Centre d'études mongoles et sibériennes.

L’ours : l'Autre de l’homme (1980). Études mongoles et sibériennes. Centre d'études mongoles et sibériennes. See the review in https://www.persee.fr/doc/assr_0335-5985_1986_num_61_2_2397_t1_0253_0000_3

Maris, V. (2018). La Part sauvage du monde. Le Seuil.

Morizot, B. (2020). Sauvagerie : des animaux et des hommes. Entretien avec Baptiste Morizot. Dix-huitième siècle, Vol. 1, n° 52, pp. 257–265. Https://www.cairn.info/revue-dix-huitieme-siecle-2020-1-page-257.htm

Nylan, M. (2019). Humans as animals and things in pre-Buddhist China. Religions, 10, n° 6. Https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10060360

O'Flaherty, W. D. (1981). Sexual metaphors and animal symbols in Indian mythology. Motilal Banarsidass.

------ (1979). Sacred cows and profane pools in Indian mythology. History of Religions, 19, no. 1, pp. 1–26.

Pan, Y. (2020, April). Human-nature relationships in East Asian animated films. Societies, Vol. 10, no. 2, p. 35. Https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10020035

Trinquier, (2015). Les animaux sauvages ont-ils un territoire ? À propos d’un passage des laudes Italiae (Virgile, Géorgiques II, pp. 151–154). Cahier des études anciennes, vol. II, « Des frontières symboliques ou théoriques à franchir ou à transgresser », pp. 205–229. Https://journals.openedition.org/etudesanciennes/838

University of Warsaw (2018). Exhibiting Animals: Curatorial Strategies and Narratives (call for papers). Https ://networks.h-net.org/node/73374/announcements/10198953/exhibiting-animals-curatorial-strategies-and-narratives

Seki, K. (Ed.) (1963). Folktales of Japan (R. Adams, trans.). University of Chicago Press.

Singer, R. & Masatomo, K. (eds.). The life of animals in Japanese art. [Cat. exp. Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, 05.-28.07.2019; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 08.09.-08.12.2019]. Princeton University Press; Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art.


  • Salle Perrot (à confirmer) - INHA, 2 rue de Vivienne
    Paris, France (75001)

Event attendance modalities

Hybrid event (on site and online)


  • Friday, September 30, 2022


  • animal sauvage, anthropocène, symbolisme animalier, Asie, imaginaire et iconographie de l’animal, wild animal, anthropocene, animal symbolism, Asia, imaginary and iconography of the animal


  • Christine vial Kayser
    courriel : christine [dot] vialkayser [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Karine Ladrech
    courriel : secretariat [at] asie-sorbonne [dot] fr

Information source

  • Christine vial Kayser
    courriel : christine [dot] vialkayser [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« The animal in the Asian imagination : alter or alter ego ? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, July 05, 2022, https://calenda.org/1006037

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