International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

An Africanist anthropologist who spent several years investigating the Samo and Mossi in Upper Volta (Burkina Faso) and the Dogon in Mali, Françoise Héritier (1933-2017) is a specialist in the anthropology of kinship and the symbolic anthropology of the body and its substances. A researcher at the CNRS and then directeur d’études at the EHESS (1980), she succeeded Claude Lévi-Strauss at the Collège de France in 1982 in the chair of comparative study of African societies and was director of the Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale until 1999. In continuity with Levi-Strauss structuralism but extending and renewing it, her work focuses on the functioning of complex systems of alliance and kinship. She proposes the notion of “incest of the second type” and reflects on the categories of identity and difference in the construction of masculine and feminine relationships and on the “differential valence of the sexes”, which led her to develop a reflection on violence. She is the author of L’exercice de la parenté (1981), Les complexités de l’alliance (1990-1994, 4 vol. with É. Copet-Rougier); Les deux sœurs et leur mère: anthropologie de l’inceste (1994), Masculin-féminin (vol. 1: La pensée de la différence, 1996; vol. 2: Dissoudre la hiérarchie, 2002), De la violence (vol. 1: 1995 et vol. 2: 1999). Engaged in the societal debates of her time, she was the first president of the National AIDS Council in 1989. Her public speeches and her more personal works (Le sel de la vie, 2012; Le goût des mots, 2013; Au gré des jours, 2017) made her well known to a wide public.

Keywords: French Ethnology | Structuralism | Africanism | Anthropology of the body | 20th century | Africa | Burkina Faso | Mossi | Samo | Kinship anthropology | Incest | Symbolic Anthropology | Violence | Feminism | Claude Lévi-Strauss

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Notes and research instruments