Nicolas Lainé (PhD) is a social anthropologist and Research Fellow at the UMR Paloc, a multidisciplinary mixed research unit from the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) and the National Museum of Natural History (MNHN) in Paris. A specialist in society-environment relations, he has conducted numerous field studies in India, Laos, and Thailand. He has published a dozen articles on human-elephant relations, as well as the monograph Living and Working with Giants. A Multispecies Ethnography of the Khamti and Elephants in Northeast India (MNHN 2020). His current work focuses on human-animal relationships, health, and local knowledge. E-mail: nicolas.laine@ird.fr
Suriyawut Ketui (DVM) is a veterinarian and has recently decided to engage in the study of anthropology. He is currently studying a master’s degree in Lanna Studies at the Faculty of Humanities, Chiang Mai University (Thailand). E-mail: nanpiyamitr@gmail.com


The Lua and their Buffaloes: The Interweaving of Ritual, Territory, and Interspecies Relations

Abstract: Based on a multispecies ethnography of the relationships between the Lua and their buffaloes in the Nan Province of Thailand, this presentation aims to explore the synergy of cultural and biological components in the management of a territory though ritual and its impact on animal mobility and interspecies encounters. The paper will describe the different stages of the ritual associated with the seasonal transhumance of buffaloes from the village to their forest pasture, as well as the various invisible and wild beings that visit the sacred place (tu phi). Held in the heart of the forest, such ritual aims to attract and appease spirits, aiding animal health and behavior. Locally, it is meant to help in creating and reinforcing the boundaries between cultivated land and forest areas, fostering interactions between humans and animals. The ceremony performed at the tu phi can thus be viewed as a center point within the grazing area to control animal movements, even though it also becomes a hub for interspecies encounters (bats, cows, dogs, buffaloes). The paper will discuss the flexible and dynamic nature of these ritualized boundaries and their impact on the movement of animals, highlighting how local knowledge and practices can inform discussions on wildlife/domestic animals, zoonotic diseases, and human-animal relationships.
Keywords: ritual, interspecies encounters, buffaloes, Lua, Nan (Thailand)