The Best of Both Worlds: CASA/ERASME, the History of a Dutch-French Research Collaboration

Jos D. M. Platenkamp

Universität Münster

Denis Monnerie

Université de Strasbourg


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Platenkamp, Jos D. M.& Denis Monnerie, 2021. “The Best of Both Worlds: CASA/ERASME, the History of a Dutch-French Research Collaboration”, in BEROSE - International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
URL BEROSE: article2157.html

Publié dans le cadre du thème de recherche « Histoire de l’anthropologie néerlandophone », dirigé par Thomas Beaufils (Université de Lille, IRHiS UMR CNRS 8529).

In 1982, a collaborative relationship was initiated between French social anthropologists taking part in the CNRS Équipe de recherche d’anthropologie sociale: morphologie, échanges (ERASME, Research team of social anthropology: morphology, exchanges) and Dutch colleagues engaged in the research group Culturele Antropologie Cognitieve Antropologie (CASA, Cultural Anthropology, Cognitive Anthropology) of Leiden University. The former had recently been created in Paris to develop Louis Dumont’s anthropological ideas, the latter pursued the long-standing tradition of Leiden research initiated by J.P.B de Josselin de Jong. This collaboration lasted in its institutional form until the early 2000s and has been continued on an individual basis since. The antecedents of this French-Dutch cooperation, however, date back to the late 19th century, when an exchange of ethnological information between academics of Leiden University and in Paris took place, facilitated by their familiarity with each other’s languages. This exchange, in which different scholars have participated since, each contributing their own particular expertise, has survived the vicissitudes of 20th-century European history. The CASA/ERASME project thus has contributed to one of the longest lasting bilateral research endeavours in the history of social anthropology. We outline the various parameters that have inspired this cooperative endeavour over the years. In doing so, we shall pay particular attention not only to the shared paradigmatic orientations but also to the methodological distinctions that have marked this collaborative programme.

CASA: Its Antecedents and Establishment

Towards the end of the 19th century, the Dutch ethnologist George Alexander Wilken had turned the contemporary evolutionist understanding of history as a process steering societies into states of increasing perfection in the opposite direction. He argued that human institutions had come into being in a dim historical past, when humankind’s physiological experiences had gradually acquired socio-religious meanings. And since human physiology is a universal condition, likewise the socio-religious institutions generated by this primordial transition in different societies had been comparable. In their original constellation such institutions constituted an integral and complete whole, but in the course of history this wholeness became fragmented. Hence instead of bringing about increasing perfection, historical processes deprived the institutions of their “complete” and “non-violated” condition, “so that [they] usually can be observed in the form of disjecta membra only” (Wilken 1889:258; transl. Platenkamp & Prager 1994:715). As erratic phenomena of isolated significance, they would no longer be amenable to comparative analyses. Only those societies could fruitfully be compared whose institutions ‘still’ displayed a proximity to the original transition (Wilken 1912).

Wilken’s studies were much appreciated by Marcel Mauss. He more than once quoted from his “capital” works (1896 in Mauss 1969a: 655) and considered him to be “a scholar who was at once a first rate ethnographer and sociologist” (1913 in Mauss 1969b: 403-4). Conversely, Wilken’s paradigmatic thought appears to have set a favourable condition for the subsequent dialogue with the sociology of Émile Durkheim in the Netherlands.

The early contacts, from the late 19th century onwards, between Émile Durkheim and Marcel Mauss, and social anthropologists and philologists of Leiden University have been well documented (P. E. de Josselin de Jong 1972, 1977; P.E. de Josselin de Jong & H.F. Vermeulen 1989; Fournier 1994; Prager [1996]; Oosten 2006; Beaufils 1997, 2015). Durkheim’s proposal of 1898, communicated in Leiden by Mauss in person, [1] to exchange the journals Année sociologique against Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde van Nederlandsch Indië [2] initiated this relationship. It allowed texts and source materials to be exchanged and for them become acquainted with and benefit from each other’s research data and theoretical perspectives.

This familiarity with the publications of Durkheim and other contributors to the Année sociologique inspired the Leiden scholars to re-conceptualise Wilken’s axiom of the ‘original integrity of Mankind’ as evidenced in the ‘completeness’ of societies’ socio-religious institutions. No longer was the primordial transition from physiological experience to socio-religious meaning considered to be the primal cause of such an ‘original integrity’, but rather humankind’s propensity – as axiomatically propounded by Durkheim – to construct the cognitive and moral representations of a society’s conscience collective in accordance with its categories of social morphology. But unlike their French colleagues they refrained from global comparisons, restricting their analyses primarily to data recorded in the Indonesian and Malay archipelagos.

Durkheim and Mauss’ text on ‘primitive classification’ (1903), that had drawn on the Dutch Sinologist Jan J. M. de Groot’s (1892) work on Chinese cosmological classifications inter alia, in turn inspired both F. D. E.(Cornelis) van Ossenbruggen’s (1977 [1916]) seminal analysis of the Javanese classificatory system monca pat and other Indonesian and Indological studies at the time (e.g. Pigeaud 1977 [1928], Jansen 1977 [1933], Held 1935). And as van Ossenbruggen (1977:43) had argued before him, in the early 1920s Willem H. Rassers had interpreted Java’s myths and rituals as fragmentary reflections of those ‘collective representations’ that in their ‘perfect coherence’ had been generated by a – now defunct – dualistically structured social order of Javanese society (Rassers 1982 [1922]). He also followed Durkheim and Mauss in advocating comparative analyses of those societies, the collective representations of which were ‘still’ in ‘perfect coherence’ with their categories of social morphology. Hence the ‘original’ Javanese social order might fruitfully be compared with Australian Aboriginal moiety systems.

In the decade to come, however, the procedures and perspectives of comparison shifted. Frans A. E. van Wouden’s (1968 [1935]) masterly comparative analysis of the coherence between social institutions, categories of kinship and marriage, and cosmological representations had been applied to several societies in Eastern Indonesia. In line with Durkheimian thought, it was the similarity in socio-morphological institutions – in this case the rules of preferential marriage and descent – that determined the selection of societies in this regional sample of comparison. The question of their historical relatedness as evidenced by a common origin of their languages played no role in this regard. On the contrary, it was the coherence of social and cosmological orders as observed in different yet regionally proximate societies that accounted for their comparability.

It appears that this axiom of socio-cultural ordering had an additional and independent source in the work of Jan P. B. de Josselin de Jong – the leading Leiden scholar of the day and doctoral supervisor of van Wouden’s thesis. He proclaimed (in the posthumous words of one of his students) that one should “learn to perceive in the strange behaviour of illiterate peoples […] modes of conduct that are stimulated and structured by internal coherence and human rationality” (van Baal 1965: 297-8, our English translation). De Josselin de Jong derived this conviction inter alia from his early comparative studies of Indo-Germanic and Algonquin languages (J. P. B. de Josselin de Jong 1913) and he used linguistic notions of structure and family relatedness among languages to conceptualise his approach to socio-cultural comparison. Yet this analogy between language, society and culture was posited at the level of the model only: there was no necessary empirical connection between the two fields of data. As a result, neither in van Wouden’s analysis nor in de Josselin de Jong’s proposal for a comparative ethnological research programme was linguistic relatedness of any methodological relevance.

De Josselin de Jong formalised the parameters of this comparative programme in his inaugural lecture at Leiden University (1977a [1935]; Beaufils 1997). He conceived of the Malay Archipelago as a “field of ethnological study” and introduced a research programme for which certain “core elements” recurring in different societies should serve as parameters of comparison. These elements included double-unilineal modes of descent, asymmetric alliance relations (coined ‘circulating connubium’), dualistically structured socio-cosmological orders, and particular modes of processing representations of foreign provenance. This model has been subject to critical debates among anthropologists, historians, philologists and sociologists ever since (see below).

To this ‘field of ethnological study’, De Josselin de Jong assigned societies “whose culture appears to be sufficiently homogeneous and unique to form a separate object of ethnological study, and which at the same time reveals sufficient local shades of differences to make internal comparative research worthwhile” (op. cit.: 167-8). This formulation evidently derived verbatim from Marcel Mauss and Henri Beuchat’s analysis (1904-05) of the ‘seasonal variation among the Eskimo’ (cp. Platenkamp 1996: 213 n. 14). But whereas in the latter study the ‘sufficient similarity’ was provided by the cultural affinity between the Inuit communities that were part of the sample, de Josselin de Jong’s ‘field of ethnological study’ defined the comparability of geographically proximate – but quite distinctive – societies in terms of the core elements mentioned above. Thus like the other Leiden scholars mentioned earlier, he assigned a privileged importance to regional proximity in comparative analyses.

This contrasted conspicuously with the methodology applied by the Année sociologique group. They defined the comparability of societies worldwide by the types of holistic socio-cosmic classification and collective representations deemed to prevail among them (as for example in Durkheim & Mauss’ ‘Primitive Classification’ or Mauss’ ‘Essay on the Gift’). This contrast between regional and global samples of comparison would re-emerge in the different stances taken by the Dutch and French participants in the CASA-ERASME cooperative programme.

A similar regionally restricted application by Leiden scholars of a French global comparative paradigm recurred when they received Claude Lévi-Strauss’ works in the early 1950s. Jan P. B. de Josselin de Jong (1977b [1952]) published a complimentary review of Les structures élémentaires de la parenté (Lévi-Strauss 1949) – once again, the first to appear in the non-francophone world (Menget 2008) – gently pointing out some similarities with van Wouden’s study of Eastern Indonesia of 1935 (see Lévi-Strauss 2000: 714). This reception preceded the subsequent adoption by Patrick E. de Josselin de Jong – nephew of and successor to Jan P.B. de Josselin de Jong as professor of Cultural Anthropology at Leiden university – of Lévi-Strauss’ ‘structuralist’ theory. But once again, when it came to the actual application of the structural method, Patrick de Josselin de Jong remained faithful to the ‘classical’ Leiden approach of regional comparison. While applying Lévi-Strauss’ concept of ‘transformation’ to account theoretically for the connections between myths, he concentrated on those collected among geographically proximate societies of Malaysia and western Indonesia (P. E. de Josselin de Jong 1980; P. E. de Josselin de Jong & R. Jordaan 1985). Other Leiden scholars from the 1970s onwards applied this method of theoretically focused comparison to other regionally restricted samples of societies, applying concepts that Lévi-Strauss had developed in his studies of kinship, exchange and myth. Thus David S. Moyer (1976: 21) argued that only such a regionally controlled structural analysis could elucidate the intricate distinctions between the legal systems of different societies in Sumatra. By that time, Patrick de Josselin de Jong had rephrased the concept ‘Field of Ethnological Study’ as ‘Field of Anthropological Study’ (P. E. de Josselin de Jong (ed.) 1984; cf. Berger 2009).

In 1976, a new research team labelled Cognitieve Antropologie Structurele Antropologie (CASA) was established at Leiden University. Jointly directed by Patrick de Josselin de Jong and Jarich G. Oosten, it provided a stage for staff and students to discuss their current researches of a structural and cognitive anthropological character. By then, Indonesia was no longer the only field of comparison. The then Leiden professor Adam Kuper (1982) made a comparative study of systems of marriage exchanges in neighbouring societies in southern Africa while Oosten (1985) scrutinized pan-Indo-European mythologies so as to identify the ‘social code’ operating in these texts. Moreover, a younger generation of scholars explored research fields in the southern Sudan (on Dinka: Bert van den Hoek and Sjoerd Zanen 1987), Western and Central Africa (on Mossi: Sabine Luning 1997; on Lele and Kuba a.o.: Trudeke Vuijk 1991), South India (on Karnataka: Jan Brouwer 1988) and Nepal (Bert van den Hoek [posthumously 2004]). After a long period of post-colonial estrangement between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Indonesia, in the mid-1970s diplomatic relations had improved to an extent that Leiden students could take up field research in the Indonesian islands of Java (Anke Borkent-Niehof 1975), Madura (Anke Niehof 1985 and Roy Jordaan 1985), Ternate (Chris van Fraassen 1987) and Halmahera (Ronald Lucardi 1980, Leontine Visser 1984 and Jos Platenkamp 1988a). Whenever these studies were of a comparative nature (e.g. van Fraassen op. cit., 1980; Platenkamp 1988b; 2007) they involved regionally circumscribed samples of societies. And although Franklin E. Tjon Sie Fat’s sophisticated analyses and theoretical modelling of systems of kin terminology and exchange (1990, 1998) were not restricted to the above mentioned regions of comparison, he, too, advocates focusing such formal analyses on cognate systems of neighbouring societies, if only to better identify concomitant variations (cp. Tjon Sie Fat 2018).

ERASME, Its Antecedents and Establishment

Prior to World War II, Louis Dumont had studied with Marcel Mauss while being employed by the Musée de l’homme in Paris, where he had “discovered his vocation as an ethnographer” (Galey 1982: 13). As a prisoner of war he then had the opportunity to study Sanskrit with the Indologist Walther Schubring of Hamburg University. After the war he first conducted an ethnographic study of Tarascon in what is today the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Dumont 1957a). In 1949-1950 he then undertook a study of the Pramalai Kallar sub-caste in South India – as one of the few French anthropologists then engaged in field research conducted in the local language (Dumont 1957b & 1957c). Thereafter he taught for four years at Oxford university as an assistant to Edward E. Evans Pritchard who himself was firmly committed to a dissemination of the works of the Année sociologique scholars in the Anglo-American world and from whom he “received [...] a second training, so to speak” (Galey op. cit: 18).

After returning to Paris, from 1955 onwards Dumont taught at the 6th Section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), which in 1975 became autonomous under the name of École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS). In the mid fifties, Dumont was instrumental in establishing the Centre d’études indiennes en sciences sociales (Indian Studies Center in social sciences). With the insights he obtained in South India, his knowledge of classical Vedic India, and inspired by Célestin Bouglé’s (1935 [1908]) and other earlier interpretations of the Indian caste system, he proceeded to analytically describe the Hindu caste system in terms of the particular configuration of the ideas and values in which it is grounded (Dumont 1979 [1966]). In this context Dumont developed a general theory of hierarchy among values, marked by a particular logical structure labelled ‘the encompassment of the contrary’. With this theory he distanced himself significantly from Lévi-Strauss’ privileged use of binary oppositional models.

In 1976 together with Daniel de Coppet, Dumont established the collective research group Recherche Coopérative sur Programme (RCP) 436 with the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS). Already employed by CNRS, de Coppet had participated in the research and teaching programmes directed by Claude Lévi-Strauss and André Leroi-Gourhan, representing two different orientations of French Anthropology in the 1960s. He had conducted long-term fieldwork in ’Aré’aré society in the Solomon Islands, and would continue to do so regularly for the years to come. In his early publications he had already identified the crucial importance of traditional money and of ceremonial exchanges and circulations for structuring ’Aré’aré social life (e.g. Coppet 1968, 1970, 1973; Coppet & Zemp 1978). In the early days of the RCP 436 research team, Dumont’s theory of value systems and de Coppet’s insights into circulatory exchange processes also inspired the analyses of culturally specific systems of exchange and value contributed by other team members. Thus Raymond Jamous, Cécile Barraud and Valerio Valeri submitted analyses of the kinship systems and the intricate exchanges that mark social life, respectively, of the Iqar’iyen in the Moroccan Rif (Jamous 1981) and in the eastern Indonesian island societies of Tanebar-Evav (Barraud 1979) and Huaulu (Valeri 1980).

In 1982, the CNRS research team named Équipe de recherche d’anthropologie sociale: morphologie, échanges (ERASME) emerged from RCP 436. It was directed by Daniel de Coppet and located in the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris. Whereas Valeri had by then left for Chicago University, where he focused his research on ancient Hawai’i (Valeri 1985), other young French scholars joined the ERASME team, such as Serge Tcherkézoff studying Nyamwesi society in Tanzania (Tcherkézoff 1983) and Samoa in Polynesia and André Iteanu conducting research among Orokaiva in Papua New Guinea (Iteanu 1983). By now, ERASME’s research expertise concerned societies in India, Oceania, the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Its expertise was further strengthened by the temporary participation of foreign researchers such as Signe Howell from Oxford studying Malaysian Chewong (Howell 1984), the Indonesian scholars Mus Huliselan (1980), Jacob W. Ajawaila (1990) and Marcus J. Pattinama (2005) studying various North and Central Moluccan societies, and Japanese Masao Yamaguchi researching Jukun in Nigeria, Lio in eastern Indonesia and Japan (cp. Yamaguchi 1989, 1990).

Meanwhile Dumont had been concerned with bridging the gap between ‘non-modern’ societies such as those studied by social anthropology so far, and the ‘modern’ societies of the West (Dumont 1979 [1966]). He conceptualised this distinction between ‘non-modern’ and ‘modern’ types of social systems as a paradigmatic contrast between ‘holistic’ and ‘individualistic’ types of ideologies, respectively. He applied this paradigm in a series of broad sociological analyses of modern value configurations and their historical antecedents (e.g. Dumont 1977, 1983). Meanwhile, other team members presented collective comparative analyses (Barraud, Coppet, Iteanu, Jamous 1984, 1994) focused on the processes of circulation, exchanges and transformations that provided the foundation of the social-cosmological order of society – the latter themes being of particular concern in the works of de Coppet (1981), Jamous (op. cit.) and Iteanu (op. cit.) – and on the ramifications of the brother-sister relationship in various kinship systems and social and rituals contexts (Alès & Barraud 2001).

The empirical research expertise of the various members of the ERASME team and the theoretical propositions submitted by Dumont concerning the contrast between ‘non-modern’ ‘holistic’ and ‘modern’ ‘individualistic’ value configurations had made it possible to conceptualise a global comparative perspective. Hence the team’s research programme pursued an “understanding of the coherence of each of the societies being studied and the comparison between global societies” (ERASME 1982: 5) for which long-term ethnographic field researches and solid linguistic competence were considered indispensable.

Let us recall how from the early 20th century onwards, the Leiden scholars, in concentrating their researches on Indonesian and Malay societies, had refrained from making the global comparative analyses that were still en vogue in the evolutionist days of the late 19th century. One can observe how ERASME’s researches display the inverted development from regional to global perspectives in the scope of their theory and methodology. Dumont’s early ethnographic interest in a South Indian community and his later fieldwork in Northern India, supported by his knowledge of the classical Vedic sources and Sanskrit, had not only resulted in the foundation of the Centre Indien; it also led him to distance himself from Lévi-Strauss’ theorem that not only linguistic but also other forms of human communication, classification and social action were structured by a logic of binary oppositions. For Dumont, this model failed to account for the ideology of ‘purity’ in which the classical Hindu Indian system of caste is grounded. Adducing a logic predicated on a hierarchical ‘encompassment of the contrary’ he could describe precisely how contrary values such as religious ‘status’ and political ‘power’ were articulated and actually informed this social system. But only globally comparative analyses might offer an answer to the question of whether such a logic would be an artefact of idiosyncratic Indian ideology or a more general property of social ideologies as such. Dumont’s subsequent researches sought to answer this question by studying the developmental processes in which modern Western societies had gradually shed their originally ‘holistic’ value configurations to acquire an ‘individualistic’ character. He endeavoured to demonstrate how the first step in this direction had been set in early Christian thought (Dumont 1983) and reached its apex in the ideology of market economics (Dumont 1977). Global comparison had thus acquired its maximum range, including the ‘modern’ West and the ‘non-modern’ non-West of classical India as well as a time span of two thousand years between the present and the past in the same comparative sample.

With the establishment of ERASME the comparative framework acquired additional regional and thematic dimensions. The global range now included cultural repertoires that differed radically from that of Hindu India, such as those of Oceanic, Papuan, Moluccan and Berber societies. And while their researchers adopted Dumont’s conceptual focus on hierarchies of values as the core object of description and analysis, neither of these societies displayed values of the type that structure Hindu Indian societies. Thus whereas Raymond Jamous identified notions of ‘honour’ and Islamic blessing (baraka) as contrary core values encompassing one another at different levels of Iqar’iyen society, de Coppet demonstrated how ’Are’are values are enacted in ongoing ritual interventions that, taken in their entirety, constituted systems of circulation.

From these and other team members’ analytical endeavours emerged the insight that the social processes of the societies studied could not be adequately described by means of the concept of ‘reciprocity’ that had played such a fundamental role in French anthropology – from Mauss to Lévi-Strauss. The processes in question rather constituted ongoing processes of circulations. Embodied in circulating subjects and objects were components of the person conceptualised, for instance, as, ‘image’, ’breath’, ’body’ (as among ’Are’are, Coppet 1998), or ‘honour’ or ‘blessing’ (as with Iqar’iyen). Moreover, the relationships of circulations in question were not restricted to, or even privileged as connections between so-called ‘wife-giver’ and ‘wife-taker’ social units generated by marriage alliance. Relations modelled on the ‘brother’/’sister’ relationship turned out to be of fundamental importance as well for the reproduction of social and cosmological orders. These insights emerged from the researches of other ERASME team members on East Indonesia : Tanebar-Evav and Tanimbar (Barraud 1979, Pauwels 1985), Solomon Islands’ ’Are’are (Coppet 2001), Papua New Guinean Orokaiva (Iteanu 1982, 2001), New Caledonian Arama and Solomons’ Mono Alu (Monnerie (1996, 2003, 2005, 1995) and Tanzanian Nyamwezi (Tcherkézoff, 1981, 1983). They also inspired the studies of younger students such as Nicolas Journet (1988) on Curripaco in Colombia, Annie Bruyer (1988) on Mossi of Burkina Faso, Xavier Blaisel (1993) on Inuit, Françoise Cayrol (1993) on New-Caledonia, Vanuatu, and Fiji, and Sophie Chave-Dartoen (2000) on Wallis. But these insights also inspired the analyses that some scholars of the Leiden CASA team began to develop from the mid-1980s onwards (see below).

Paris-Leiden Cooperation Rejuvenated: CASA-ERASME

In response to an increasingly critical appreciation of the concept of ‘field of ethnological study’, Patrick de Josselin de Jong in November 1982 invited selected Dutch and foreign scholars to a conference to reflect upon the analytical power of this comparative method and its applicability in their own researches. The Dutch participants would contribute papers that were to be critically reviewed by the foreign participants. Whereas the concept was now also applied in contributions from linguistics, philology, history and urban sociology, the notion of ‘core elements’ that had been of focal importance in its original conceptualisation receded into the background and the scope of the method was reduced to that of controlled comparison (P. E. de Josselin de Jong (ed.), 1984). However, the invitation extended by Patrick de Josselin de Jong to Cécile Barraud to comment on Jos Platenkamp’s conference contribution about eastern Indonesian Tobelo society (Barraud 1984, Platenkamp 1984), resulted in a new cooperative relationship between French and Leiden anthropologists, as, subsequent to the Leiden conference, Barraud invited Platenkamp to attend the ERASME seminars in Paris in 1984. Upon his return he and Indologist/anthropologist and fellow PhD student A. (Bert) W. van den Hoek introduced Dumont’s theory of value and hierarchy to the other members of the CASA team.

During the second half of the 1980s and the 1990s, mutual visits by members of the ERASME and CASA teams took place, each of them with their proper research expertise, often funded by the French and Dutch national scientific agencies of CNRS and ZWO/NWO respectively. Danielle Geirnaert-Martin (researching Laboya society in eastern Indonesia (1992)), Jarich Oosten (studying Swazi royal rituals (1989) and Inuit cosmology (e.g. Oosten & Laugrand (eds.) 1999), Patrick de Josselin de Jong (analysing Malay and Indonesian political myths (1980)) and Jos Platenkamp visited Paris for periods of one week to several months to discuss their researches in the ERASME team. Conversely, between 1986 and 1999 Cécile Barraud, Daniel de Coppet, André Iteanu, Simonne Pauwels, Annie Bruyer and Denis Monnerie discussed their researches on South Moluccan, Oceanic and West African societies with the CASA team members in Leiden. These concerted exchanges resulted inter alia in the application by several CASA team members of the models of circulation of components of persons and values – both in single-society and in regionally comparative analyses (cp. Platenkamp 1988a, 1988b on North Halmahera, Geirnaert-Martin 1992 on East Sumba, and Oosten 1993 on Inuit societies). On the ERASME side, Monnerie’s participation in CASA seminars and reading of Leiden scholarly analyses strengthened his insight that the local societies under study should be understood as embedded in regionally articulated cosmic systems (Monnerie 1998, 2002, 2016).

In the course of the 1990s, the number of young researchers joining the teams increased significantly. The expertise of CASA was enlarged by Ed van Hoven’s (1995) research of the Manding of Senegal, Berend Timmer’s (2000) of the Manduar in Gambia, Marloes Jansons’ (2002) of the Manding of Gambia, Erik de Maaker’s (2006) of the Garo in India, Barbara Miller’s (2007) of the Sami in Norway and Anja Nicole Stuckenberger’s (2005) of the Canadian Inuit.

In 1989, Leiden University established the Research School of Asian, African and Amerindian Studies (Centrum voor Niet-Westerse Studien CNWS), a conglomerate of research clusters in the fields of the history, linguistics, philology, religious studies and social anthropology of the ‘non-Western’ world. While on this occasion CASA formally ceased to exist, its members were now incorporated into these clusters as well.

The ERASME team also welcomed the contributions of additional researchers not all of whom were formally employed by CNRS. Many attended ERASME’s weekly seminar labelled Groupe de travail en anthropologie comparative (GTASC, Workteam on comparative anthropology, convened by Cécile Barraud, Daniel de Coppet, Jean-Claude Galey and André Iteanu and conducted at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales). Other scholars – both from France and from abroad – attended this seminar too, including several members of CASA. [3] In addition to the above mentioned ERASME scholars, other researchers contributed their expertise to the various collaborative activities of CASA/ERASME. Stephen C. Headley (2000) and Jean-Marc de Grave (2001) researched Javanese society, Jop Ajawaila (1990) the Galela of the North Moluccas, and Claudine Berthe-Friedberg (1989) the Bunaq of Timor – all located in Indonesia. In Oceania Dominik Bretteville (2002) conducted research on Maaluma Paimboa of New Caledonia and Almut Schneider (2017) on the Gawigl of Papua New Guinea. Michael Houseman (1984) studied Central Africa and theory of rituals; Stéphane Vibert (1999) the society of Russia, Catherine Capdeville-Zeng (2001) Chinese society, while Catherine Alès (1999) conducted her research in Latin America and Sophie Laligant (2007) in Brittany.

Thus whereas initially the regional focus of CASA researches had been predominantly on the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos, and that of ERASME on India and the Pacific, by now the collaboration between the two teams expanded with additional expertise that ranged from societies in Western and Central Africa, the Soviet Union, China, Native America, the Arctic region and France.

A Third Partner: the Institut für Ethnologie of Münster University

Following Platenkamp’s appointment to the Chair of Social Anthropology at the Institut für Ethnologie of the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität in Münster (Germany) in 1993, the German anthropologists Michael Prager (studying societies in Seram and Bima in Indonesia, 2005a, 2005b), Sabine Klocke-Daffa (researching Nama in Namibia, 2001), Guido Sprenger (on Rmeet in Laos, 2006), Christian Postert (on Hmong in Laos, [2003]) and Gabi Alex (on Tamil in India, 2009) began to take part in the CASA-ERASME joint conferences as well (see below). As a result, expertise on southern African, South Indian and continental Southeast Asia were added to the three teams’ collective research fields. This was continued also after ERASME was dismantled as a CNRS Équipe de recherche (research team) at the end of 2001.

The collective academic activities of these French, Dutch and German researchers entailed taking part in joint conferences, contributing to each other’s publications, and co-examining doctoral dissertations submitted by the teams’ members.

Research Symposia

In 1990 it was agreed that members of ERASME and CASA should convene regular meetings in which to inform one another of ongoing researches. From 2001 onwards, members of the Institut für Ethnologie of Münster University joined them as well. To that end, several symposia took place between the years 1990 and 2002. Whereas each symposium was devoted to a particular theme, they were not meant to be conventional conferences, the contributions to which would be published as proceedings. Instead they should provide a forum to discuss questions of theory, method and comparison and to initiate a rapprochement between the two teams, finally culminating in a converging research agenda. The sudden and untimely demise of Daniel de Coppet in March 2002 precluded this objective from being fully accomplished. Yet the synergy that ensued over the years resulted in several joint publication projects that bore witness to these communal research interests and theoretical foci.

The first symposium took place from 12 to 15 March 1990 at the Centre of Non-Western Studies of Leiden University. Entitled Relations Between Values in Ritual. The Comparative Study of Value-Ideas, the conference proceeded from an Dumontian understanding of ideologies as systems of idées-valeurs that inspired much of ERASME’s research as well as from research on rituals which many of CASA’s and ERASME’s members conducted. Hence such topics were addressed as Kei society and the person. An approach through childbirth and funerary ritual (Cécile Barraud); The Pogo nauta ritual (Danielle Geirnaert-Martin), From Hursu Ribun’s ’Three Hearth Stones’ to Metanleru’s ’sailing Boat’. A Ritual Day after Harvest (Simonne Pauwels); The societies and their values – La re-présentation (Daniel de Coppet), Prohibition and the sacred (André Iteanu) and Cérémonies de mariage et relation frère-soeur chez les Meo (Raymond Jamous). Some of these contributions were published in journals edited by members of CASA and/or ERASME (e.g. Barraud’s text in Ethnos 55/3-4, 1990; Geirnaert in Barraud & Platenkamp eds.,1989; Pauwels in Barraud & Platenkamp eds. 1990).

A second symposium concentrated in particular on ritual processes of circulation and transition. Entitled Societies and the Cycle of Life and Death. A Comparative View it took place from 9 to 13 December 1991 in the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. Among the topics addressed were Becoming a Man, Becoming a Woman (André Iteanu), Le ’travail’ de la monnaie et le système socio-cosmique ’aré’aré, aux Iles Salomon (Daniel de Coppet), Part of the Whole among Tobelo of Halmahera (Jos Platenkamp), Mono-Alu Social Orders and Funeral Rites (Denis Monnerie), and Socio-cosmic prohibitions. Essays for the understanding of Incest on the Kei Islands (Cécile Barraud). Contributions by other participants have not been documented.

The third symposium was convened in Münster, Germany, from 21 to 23 November 2001. This was the first occasion for members of the Institut für Ethnologie of Münster university to participate as well. It was entitled Integrating others: The appropriation of modernity. Now the topics addressed included: Contacting and integrating others among the Inuit of Northeast Canada (Jarich Oosten); From the back/from the front. From the outside/from the inside: the relational conceptualisation of Tanebar-Evav institutions, South-East Moluccas (Cécile Barraud); Changing others: from the dead to other others in Melanesia and in the Western World (Daniel de Coppet); The call to Jihad: from Javanese Islam to Indonesian Muslim (Stephen C. Headley); Fighting, language and education – Aji Saka’s Javanese legenda and the reverses of the Indonesian educative system (Jean-Marc de Grave); The integration of rock music in China (Catherine Capdeville); The ideal of community as paradoxical appropriation of modernity: from Russian ‘Sobornost’ to contemporary Communautarism (Stéphane Vibert); Integrating others in Arama, New-Caledonia (Denis Monnerie); The ‘other’ is relative – only living relatives are never ‘other’. Some reflections on ‘others’ in Tambul, Highland Papua New Guinea (Almut Schneider); Integration and revaluation of people, ideas and things among the Maaluma of New-Caledonia (Dominik Bretteville); Stranger in paradise: the place of newcomers in a Brittany village’s social organisation (Sophie Laligant); Intercultural conflicts in Indonesia (Jos Platenkamp); The modernity of traditionalists. Culture change, identity and the impact of the state among Khoekhoen groups in Southern Africa (Sabine Klocke-Daffa); Cosmology and monetary exchange among the Rmeet, Laos (Guido Sprenger); Global products, local meanings: The rationality of appropriating modernity in a Hmong village in Laos (Chris Postert); Schooling and education as vehicles of modernity? A case study in a Tamil village, South India (Gabi Alex).

To further explore the processes through which notions of ‘otherness’ and ‘modernity’ become represented and socially valued it was decided to convene a subsequent symposium in Leiden, which Daniel de Coppet, Cécile Barraud, Jos Platenkamp and Jarich Oosten met in Leiden in December 2001 to prepare. Following Daniel de Coppet’s demise in March 2002, it was decided to dedicate this symposium to his memory so as to express the teams’ profound debt to his inspiration in this international collaborative endeavour.

This Daniel de Coppet Memorial Symposium, the fourth in the series, took place in Leiden on 11-13 December 2002. The theme of the previous symposium pertaining to the ‘appropriation of modernity’ now acquired a sharper focus. Entitled The comparative anthropological analysis of the incorporating of the stranger the symposium addressed the question as to how conceptions of ‘strangers’ and ‘non-strangers’ are valued in relation to the general configurations of ideas and values in terms of which a society defines its membership. Are there ideological levels at which distinctions between ‘non-strangers’ and ‘strangers’ are transcended or encompassed by ideas-values of higher-level? Are relations between ‘non-strangers’ and ‘strangers’ considered as necessary and constitutive parts of the overall configurations of social and cosmological relationships? And finally, what processes of incorporation or inclusion can be detected, and do these entail certain movements of beings and things and notions of subordination and hierarchy? These questions were taken up in the following contributions: Strangers from within. Hierarchical relationships in Kei societies (Cécile Barraud); An anthropological analysis of the Stranger from a Chinese Point of View: the Example of Rock Musicians at the Beginning of the Nineties (Catherine Capdeville-Zeng); We never knew we were ”other“. Or how does one avoid losing oneself in a relational society! (André Iteanu); Strangers, Foreigners and ... what else? Reversing the Sense of History in New Caledonia (Denis Monnerie); Us and them: some relational subjects and not two individual acting subjects (Sophie Laligant); Jihad in Java: a Muslim appropriation of individualism (Stephen C. Headley); War and ’martiality’ - Anthropological taboo or inadequacy of the experience? (Jean-Marc de Grave); “The red man will eat you” A Gawigl’s view of what is beyond society (Almut Schneider); The Griot as an Intimate Stranger (Marloes Janson); Strangers in Blackfoot society (Lea Zuyderhoudt); Time and space in Inuit perception of non-human beings (Jarich Oosten and Frederic Laugrand); Sami Perceptions of Influence (Barbara Miller); Incidental strangers – Qallunaat (non-Inuit) in an Inuit community (Nicole Stuckenberger); Strangers’ in Germany: a preliminary comparison (Jos Platenkamp); Challenging the stranger: The dynamics of hierarchization in Hmong myths of social differentiation (Christian Postert); When the dead go to the market: Incorporating the stranger and excorporating the self in Rmeet-lowland relations (Guido Sprenger); “If you don’t give, you are out”: Stranger and friend among the Namibian Khoekhoe (Sabine Klocke-Daffa).

Some members of (former) ERASME, (former) CASA, and the Institut für Ethnologie Münster also participated in a conference jointly convened by Françoise Héritier and Stephen Headley in the setting of the Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale in Paris, from 6 to 7 May 1999. The conference theme of Moitiés d’Homme was addressed by Cécile Barraud in her contribution Symétrie, dissymétrie et hiérarchie. Histoire d’Un Côté dans la société de Kei (Moluques, Insulinde) (Barraud 2005); by Stephen Headley in Des hommes incomplets à Java. Engendrement, nourritures et assemblages (Headley 2005); by Michael Prager in Half-Men, Tricksters and Dismembered Maidens. The Cosmological Transformation of Body and Society in Wemale Mythology (Prager 2005a); and by Jos Platenkamp in Des personnes incomplètes aux sociétés accomplies (Platenkamp 2005).

In the final conference, in which members of former CASA, former ERASME and the Institut für Ethnologie took part, the theme of the representation and valuation of ‘the stranger’, to which the Daniel de Coppet Memorial Symposium of 2002 had been devoted, was taken up again. In 2016, Jos Platenkamp and Almut Schneider – the latter formerly of ERASME but now also employed by Münster University – convened a conference devoted to the theme of Integrating Strangers – Perspectives from elsewhere. This time the question of the valorisation of ‘the stranger’ was examined from a different perspective. The participants were invited to draw upon their professional experiences as ‘vocational strangers’ in the course of their own long-term field researches. The untimely and much regretted death of Jarich Oosten in 2016 precluded his participation in this last of the former CASA-ERASME symposia; the publication that ensued (Platenkamp & Schneider (eds.) 2019) is dedicated to his memory. Now the overall theme was addressed by Cécile Barraud (2019) in Welcome to Tanebar-Evav. Can one be incorporated in a village society?; by Denis Monnerie (2019) in An anthropologist in Kanaky. Modulations of belonging and otherness; by Anja Nicole Stuckenberger (2019) in Being the other in Inuit society; by Pieter ter Keurs (2019), Mythical beings from the Swamp among the Siassi, Papua New Guinea; by Almut Schneider (2019), in Placing the newcomer. Staying with the Gawigl of Highland Papua New Guinea; by Joseba Estévez (2019) in On becoming a ritual master among the Lanten – Yao Mun – of Laos; by Raphaela von Weichs (2019) in “What is your Empaako?” Becoming a Munyoro in Western Uganda; and by Jos Platenkamp (2019) in To be made part of Tobelo society (North Moluccas).

Joint PhD Supervisions

Cécile Barraud and Daniel de Coppet served as members of the examination committee of the PhD thesis of Jos Platenkamp (1988), and so did Barraud of the PhD theses of Danielle Geirnaert-Martin (1992) and Toos van Dijk (2000) – all at Leiden University. Platenkamp, in turn, was external examiner of the theses of Jacob W. Ajawaila (1990), Jean-Marc de Grave (1997), Elisabeth Luquin (2004), and Almut Schneider (2010) at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.

Joint Publications

1.The first publications resulting from the CASA/ERASME collaboration were entitled Rituals and socio-cosmic order in eastern Indonesian societies (Vol. I: Nusa Tenggara Timur 1989; Vol. II: Maluku 1990; special issues of Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde – the very journal that stood at the beginning of the Paris-Leiden exchanges a hundred years earlier). Edited by Barraud and Platenkamp, they were devoted to the social morphologies and ritual exchanges in a comparative perspective in the regionally restricted field of eastern Indonesian societies. They collected contributions from the CASA members Danielle Geirnaert-Martin, Jos Platenkamp and the ERASME members Simonne Pauwels, Cécile Barraud, Masao Yamaguchi, Jacob Ajawaila, and former ERASME member Valerio Valeri, inter alia.

2.In 1992 the volume Understanding Rituals edited by Daniel de Coppet appeared. It contained contributions by de Daniel Coppet, Raymond Jamous and Jos Platenkamp, inter alia.

3.Catherine Alès and Cécile Barraud edited the volume entitled Sexe relatif ou sexe absolu? in 2001, with contributions from both editors and from Daniel de Coppet, André Iteanu, Denis Monnerie and Jos Platenkamp.

4.In 2005 the volume entitled Moitiés d’Homme appeared. Edited by Françoise Héritier and Stephen Headley it contained contributions by Stephen Headley and Cécile Barraud and Michael Prager and Jos Platenkamp, inter alia.

5.André Iteanu edited the memorial volume La cohérence des sociétés. Mélanges en hommage à Daniel de Coppet in 2010, with contributions by Cécile Barraud, Vincent Descombes Stephen Headley, Michael Houseman, André Iteanu and Jos Platenkamp.

6.In 2017 The Appropriation of Religion in Southeast Asia and Beyond appeared. Edited by Michel Picard, it gathered contributions from Cécile Barraud, André Iteanu, Jos Platenkamp and Guido Sprenger, among others.

7.And finally in 2019, Jos Platenkamp and Almut Schneider edited the volume Integrating strangers in society. Perspectives from elsewhere to which contributed Cécile Barraud, Denis Monnerie, Jos Platenkamp, Almut Schneider and Anja Nicole Stuckenberger, inter alia.

In retrospect one can observe how the contributions to the various conferences and joint publications reflect the different comparative procedures that have characterised the CASA and ERASME researches respectively. Whereas, for instance, the two volumes edited by Barraud and Platenkamp in 1989 and 1990, and the one edited by Picard in 2017 applied the regionally circumscribed comparative method that marked Leiden and CASA scholarship over the years, the other publications included global samples of societies, thus remaining loyal to the French, and ERASME’s, academic traditions. Rather than being benevolently ignored, such methodological differences and their theoretical implications were at times critically debated. Leiden scholars might view the theoretical inferences drawn by some ERASME scholars from the global comparative analyses inspired by Louis Dumont’s perspective with a certain measure of scepticism, whereas the restrictions of regionally circumscribed samples of comparison as preferably applied by CASA scholars could evoke comparable reservations among their French counterparts. Yet it also induced scholars from both teams to carefully assess the benefits of each other’s analytical perspectives and methods in their research at hand. Since such mutual assessments were made in an invariably amiable atmosphere of quite informal seminars and conferences they in fact contributed to the stimulating and challenging exchanges that made this collaborative project into the intellectual adventure it was, all the while bearing in mind Lévi-Strauss’ adage that “ce sont les différences qui se ressemblent” (differences look alike).

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[1Parts of Durkheim’s letter dated 21 April 1898 are reprinted in Moyer 1978:457.

[2From 1948 onwards this journal was named Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde. See Platenkamp & Prager 1995 for an assessment of the social anthropological contributions to this journal in the period discussed here.

[3The teaching and research activities of Erasme’s seminars, including those of the Groupe de travail en anthropologie comparative (GTASC) mentioned above and of the Groupe de recherche en anthropologie. Anthropologie de la différence (GRAAD, Research team in anthropology, anthropology of difference) involved many other scholars and young researchers. The names of those who did not partake in any of the CASAERASME collaborative activities have been omitted here. See ERASME (1998-2000) for an overview. Mme Annie Chennevière, however, ERASME’s secretary at CNRS, should be mentioned here. Her organisational efficiency and great intelligence and empathy significantly contributed to the CASA-ERASME collaboration over the years.