The Philosophical Horizon as a Singularity of French Anthropology

The Philosophical Horizon as a Singularity of French Anthropology

6th 2022 Session of CEFRES Seminar 

When: Wednesday 20 April 2022, 4:30–6:30 pm
Where: At CEFRES and online (to register, please contact claire(@)
Language: English

Host: Emmanuel Désveaux (EHESS)

From Durkheim to Descola, via Mauss, Lévi-Strauss, Clastres and Godelier, and even Alban Bensa, a constancy is observed in French anthropology: the quest for universals in the gift, the exchange of women, the nature of government, or even the perception of nature and the significance of power relations.

The counterpart of this quest is a certain disdain, even blindness, towards cultural areas. French anthropology tends to reduce cultural areas to their strictly historical dimensions, defining them above all as colonial spaces. I will try to show that this tropism is due to a philosophical complex that characterizes the discipline in France, unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries. This complex has the advantage of warning French anthropology against an overly functionalist vision of human phenomena, but it also tends to elude the question of cultural diversity in itself. This intervention is part of research axis 2 (Norms and transgressions): At what price can we transgress the philosophical norm and the confinement in universalism that it imposes?