“Alban Bensa. Interview with Alain Morel”, collection “L’Ethnologie en héritage”, n°21, director : Gilles Le Mao ; producers : Gilles Le Mao & Stéphane Jourdain /La Huit, 2018, 180 min.
Alban Bensa, born in 1948, began his ethnological research in rural France before devoting himself to the study of Kanak societies. His investigations in a rural French region, the Perche (1969–1973), on the cult of saints immediately led him to treat anthropological facts as historical data and vice versa, and to pay attention to the political and symbolic holdings on the land.
His investigations in New Caledonia, which began in 1973, in the wake of linguists André-Georges Haudricourt and Jean-Claude Rivierre, led him to deepen these issues and to deal with anthropological realities based on two vernacular languages in a perspective that encompasses colonial history without ever being reduced to it. In this way, he has given himself the means to elucidate, as closely as possible to the expression and practices of their actors, the social and political organisations of the Paicî and Cèmuhî language area in the centre of Grande Terre.
His teaching at the University of Paris-V-Sorbonne (1971–1990) and at the EHESS (1991–2019) have amplified his theoretical analyses of the relationship between anthropology and history, ethnolinguistics and political sociology. His reflections on the practice of ethnography and interdisciplinarity have nourished his critique of cultural anthropology. At the crossroads of the instituted anthropological heritage and its dismantling with the tools of realistic pragmatics, Alban Bensa has contributed to the implementation of a political ethnography of the contemporary that is both lucid and committed.
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