Calling in the Soul

Gender and the Cycle of Life in a Hmong Village

Patricia V. Symonds
Afterword by Patricia V. Symonds

  • Published: August 2015
  • Subject Listing: Anthropology; Asian Studies / Southeast Asia; Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 386 pp., 21 b and w illus., 2 maps, 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

"Calling in the Soul" (Hu Plig) is the chant the Hmong use to guide the soul of a newborn baby into its body on the third day after birth. Based on extensive original research conducted in the late 1980s in a village in northern Thailand, this ethnographic study examines Hmong cosmological beliefs about the cycle of life as expressed in practices surrounding birth, marriage, and death and considers the gender relationships evident in these practices. The Hmong (or Miao, as they are called in China, and Meo, in Thailand) have lived on the fringes of powerful Southeast Asian states for centuries. Their social framework is distinctly patrilineal, granting little direct power to women. Yet within the limits of that structure, Hmong women wield considerable influence in the spiritually critical realms of birth and death. Calling in the Soul will be of interest to sociocultural anthropologists, medical anthropologists, Southeast Asianists, and gender specialists.

Replaces ISBN 9780295800424
Patricia V. Symonds is a visiting professor at Brown University. She is the coauthor (with Brooke G. Schoepf) of HIV/AIDS: The Global Pandemic and Struggles for Control.

"A gold mine of information for American social scientists. It is a 'must have.'"

"A sensitive . . . ethnography with real social application. A commendable study."
-Journal of Contemporary Asia

"This book corrects the male bias of much previous anthropological writing on the Hmong. . . . Patricia Symonds shows how women are vital to the cycle of 'birth, death, and reincarnation,' which constitutes Hmong cosmology. . . . This is excellent ethnography; it is clearly and beautifully written and well put together. Besides this, it provides an example of ethical methodology which will be extremely useful for teaching purposes and for introductions to the techniques of modern anthropology."
-Asian Folklore Studies