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Bhutan Program. History and Oral Traditions

by Lemardelé Élise - published on

Principal Investigator : Françoise Pommaret, CRCAO

Participants :

Full Members

Françoise Pommaret

Associate Members

Françoise Robin, INALCO

International Collaborators

Lungtaen Gyatso, Directeur, College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS), Royal University of Bhutan, Ngawang Jamtsho, Dean of research and External Relations, College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS), Royal University of Bhutan.


This program embodies Françoise Pommaret’s years of efforts towards the promotion of scholarship on Bhutan at an institutional level, and benefits from her long-established position locally as Associate Professor at the College of Language and Culture Studies (CLCS), Royal University of Bhutan.
This project will position the CRCAO as one of the leaders in international research of human sciences on Bhutan; it will both show the cultural links of the country with Tibet and bring out the unique features that define Bhutan; it will contribute to scientific research on a Himalayan country, thereby engaging in Area Studies.

The program includes three main research themes.

The first is based on projects launched by Françoise Pommaret in collaboration with the CLCS and concerns the documentation and study of Bhutan’s history and oral history from the 19th to the 20th century, as well as the ethnographic study of different local communities whose lifestyles are undergoing irreversible changes owing to economic development and internal migration.

The most important project, already underway, is conducted in partnership with the CLCS and consists in the documentation of the immaterial and material cultural heritage of the different districts of Bhutan. See

The second theme concerns Françoise Pommaret’s research and publications on the links between divinities, power and rituals, examined in a diachronic perspective and in the context of the legitimisation and reproduction of the elite.

The third part was implemented in 2017 and will continue until the end of 2021. It implies an educational element since Françoise Pommaret obtained funding from the Wenner Gren American Foundation for Anthropology towards the establishment of a PhD Program at CLCS, over 5 years. This PhD program in Anthropology will be the first of its kind in Bhutan and should be in effect by July 2020.
This grant is linked to an agreement between the Wenner Gren foundation and the department of Anthropology of UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), which plays a key role in the collaboration over this program. Over five years, it will include an exchange program involving both professors and PhD students, the implementation of university modules, as well as fieldwork grants.

National and international collaborations
1- In place: CNRS-Royal University of Bhutan (RUB) Agreement 2012
2- Collaboration with the Tibetan department (INALCO): Françoise Robin is working with the CLCS on a Dzongkha language textbook that will be published in 2019.
3- Collaboration of F. Pommaret with UCLA as project director of the PhD in Anthropology programme, CLCS, Royal University of Bhutan.
4- Collaboration of Françoise Pommaret and CLCS with the Himal Connect project launched by a University of Cambridge/University of Norway consortium.