How a small chieftain became an emperor: ideology and praxis in the construction of Manchu sovereignty

Nicola Di Cosmo

Focusing on the local, we ask what are the political and ideological resources that allow the formation of a power that, starting from very humble beginnings, could defeat the mighty Ming dynasty within a couple of decades. The construction of a new political entity (whether we call it state, nation, or something else) implies the mobilization of notions or power, sovereignty, and authority that belong to the political “tool kit” of the local actors. In an attempt to overcome the simplistic notion of the creation of a new political order solely depending upon military success, this lecture introduces notion of social reforms and political culture to penetrate into the construction process itself.  The center of attention is therefore the place itself, Manchuria, and the process that makes Nurhaci, a local chieftain, the founder of the Manchu state and later dynasty.  How did he build his power? How was he able to be accepted as a legitimate ruler? What was the path to sovereignty in his political context? Here we look at the scaffolding of the play and at the construction of the stage.  This seminar offers also an opportunity to visit notions of political power and its formation, representation, and actualization, in a non-European context.  Manchu political culture has multiple connections with Inner Asia and China, both of which have produced imperial traditions and are deep reservoirs of political concepts and political traditions.


  • Nicola Di Cosmo

As part of Christian Lamouroux's seminar « Lettrés, financiers et militaires : les figures de la décentralisation dans la Chine des XIIe et XIIIe siècles ».

More informations

  • Wednesday 11 May 2016 - 14:00 to 16:00
  • EHESS (salle 681) - 190-198, avenue de France 75013 Paris