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Transforming history and myth: On the mutuality and separation of shared narratives in Eastern Tibet


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Questioning the distinction between ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ societies, and an implied separation between myth and history, anthropologists have increasingly urged for an understanding of both myth and history as equally valid modes of shared social consciousness. This article takes up this point of view by referring to a written history of Lhagang, a town in Eastern Tibet; a history that appears to have the transformative content and oral circulation of myth. Using Lévi-Strauss’ structural analysis of myth and Santos-Granero's concept of topograms to demonstrate the mythemes that derive from the written history and circulate among Lhagang Tibetans, the article argues that, within the political and cultural context of Lhagang, myth and history shift in and out of indigenous categories even while being categorically distinct.

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