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Editorial Board / Research themes

History of French Anthropology and Ethnology of France (1900-1980

  • Directed by Christine Laurière (CNRS, Héritages)

Nicolas Adell (Université Jean-Jaurès, Toulouse)
Arnauld Chandivert (Université de Montpellier, CERCE)
Thomas Hirsch
André Mary (IIAC, CNRS)
Martine Segalen (Université Paris-Nanterre)
Sylvie Sagnes (CNRS, Héritages)
Luis Felipe Sobral (Universidade de São Paulo, Departamento de antropologia)

History of German and Austrian Anthropology and Ethnologies

  • Directed by Laurent Dedryvère (EILA, Université de Paris, site Paris-Diderot), Jean-Louis Georget (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris), Hélène Ivanoff (Frobenius-Institut für Kulturanthropologische Forschung an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), Isabelle Kalinowski (CNRS,Laboratoire Pays germaniques UMR 8547, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris) Richard Kuba (Frobenius-Institut für Kulturanthropologische Forschung an der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt), Carlotta Santini (CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure) and Céline Trautmann-Waller (Université Sorbonne nouvelle-Paris 3/IUF).

Philippe Siegert (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle)


Viewed from the outside, German anthropology is often characterized by a few salient features, namely the “division into two distinct disciplines, Völkerkunde and Volkskunde”, the import of “‘intuitive’ approaches”, and the “bipolarity of the ‘material’ and the ‘spiritual’ tending to obliterate the study of social organization” (Conte 1991: 37-39). French anthropologists today refer to these features either in negative or positive terms. Philippe Descola (2005) associates German anthropology with a holistic idea of culture that helped to consolidate the contemporary dualism between nature and culture, while Emmanuel Désveaux (2007) identifies the foundations of “mega-culturalism” or “neo-culturalism”. This implies a rapprochement with a certain German anthropological tradition which was continued in the United States by Franz Boas against a universalist, Durkheimian heritage that in his view is still very present in French anthropology.

However, it is difficult to speak of a single Germanic anthropology, as there is an extremely broad and diverse spectrum of disciplines that have claimed to be anthropological and ethnological sciences in Germany and Austria since the Enlightenment. The spectrum ranges from physical anthropology – from Johann Friedrich Blumenbach to Rudolf Virchow and Eugen Fischer – to so-called philosophical anthropology – from Johann Gottlieb Herder to Max Scheler or Helmut Plessner. It includes significant clashes between different “schools” and currents that have since been erased or blurred. What do Blumenbach’s collection of skulls, the purely bookish anthropology of Theodor Waitz and the “grand tour” of ethnologists like Adolf Bastian, a specialist in collecting and musealization, have in common from a methodological point of view? And what about Volkskunde, which was initially linked to prehistory? Think, for example, of the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, a learned society founded in 1869 by Bastian and Virchow.

And yet, despite the internal polemics, certain characteristic features of German anthropology and certain continuities nevertheless come under scrutiny, as demonstrated a few decades ago (1996) by George W. Stocking Jr., whose work is continued by Glenn Penny (2003, 2002, 2013). Two questions are of fundamental concern to research on German ethnology from across the Atlantic. The first is the origins of American cultural anthropology which, through the Boasian humanist tradition and the transdisciplinary combination of ethnology, archaeology and physical anthropology, still reveals some of its Germanic roots today, evincing a holistic vision of what a “science of man” might be. The second seeks to determine when and to what extent ethnology – especially in combination with physical anthropology (Massin 1996) – may have been the source of a ‘scientific’ racism that ultimately promoted Nazi ideology and made the Holocaust possible (Dow 1994; Zimmerman 2001; Kramer 1995). In Germany, the interweaving of ethnology with the ideology and politics of the Third Reich has been the subject of numerous studies, especially in the 1990s (Dostal 1994; Fischer 1990; Geisenhainer 2008; Hauschild 1995; Michel 1991; Spöttel 1996; Streck 2000).

There is a broad consensus that German ethnology took a singular path (Sonderweg) (Streck 2009; Spöttel 1995; Kramer 1995) compared to the development of the discipline in other European countries as well as in the USA. Interpretations of what exactly made it different vary. For some observers, the defeat of 1918 and the subsequent loss of the colonies marked a turning point. According to Matti Bunzl and Glenn Penny, after the First World War the discipline shifted from a liberal agenda guided by a broadly humanistic vision, focused on efforts to document the plurality of cultures, to a discipline that was “narrowly nationalistic and overtly colonialist” (Penny & Bunzl 2003: 2; Evans 2010: 9-26, 1001; Warnecken 1999). This development could be described as the reverse of the process in other countries. There is no doubt that German and Austro-Hungarian ethnologists and anthropologists participated more intensively in the war effort than their colleagues in other belligerent countries (Gingrich 2010; Kuba 2014). Some scholars emphasize that German ethnology was a useful science for colonization (Fischer 1981 ; Kuba 2020), while others consider that most researches were often oriented towards material culture and cultural history, and were far from being applicable in the daily management of colonized peoples (Gotsch 1983 ; Steinmetz 2010). The major questions that German ethnologists asked themselves tended rather to revolve around the fundamental principles of the development of cultures and their historical convergences and divergences, following the example of the Kulturkreislehre (Joch 2000; Kulturmann 1991). This focus on cultural history certainly affected the specific methodological choices of German – and also Austrian – ethnology, and its reception outside the national context, whether in devastating mode, for example on the part of Paul Radin (1933), or in positive terms, for example by Clyde Kluckhohn (1936).

Various works on the history of German-speaking ethnology appeared in France during the 1980s (Chiva & Jeggle 1987; Rupp-Eisenreich 1984; Rupp-Eisenreich & Stagl 1995). In 1988, Utz Jeggle gave a seminar on the history of German ethnology at the École de hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris), promoting exchanges between French and German scholars. Under the leadership of Isac Chiva and the Tübingen School, it was Volkskunde that benefited above all from historiographical attention, driven by the overt ambition to make French ethnology reflect on its own past in the same way as German ethnology had done in the 1970s. These Franco-German exchanges have found a recent extension (2015-2020) with several ANR/DFG projects on the cross-history of ethnology in France and Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century and from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 1960s (Georget, Ivanoff & Kuba 2016, 2020; Georget, Hallair & Tschofen 2016; Georget, Grosos & Kuba 2020).

In Germany, it is first and foremost the studies devoted to anthropology during the Enlightenment and the episteme of the pivotal period of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (Sattelzeit) that have marked a renewal of historiographic research. New studies have highlighted the emergence of ethnology itself as a modern project in the context of the Enlightenment, whether in relation with various scientific expeditions (Vermeulen 2015), or stemming from the desire to do justice to the “total man” (Schings 1994), and to establish a “science of man” (Bödecker, Büttgen & Spain 2008; Sturm 2009; Nutz 2009). The tension between Kant and Herder (Zammito 2002) encapsulates these various searches for a balance between a naturalistic vision and an understanding of “human exceptionalism”, which marked much of the thinking that claimed to be anthropological.

This work needs to be continued for the nineteenth century – indeed, in recent books devoted to this century, it is rare to see anthropology treated as a separate field (Bayertz, Gerhard & Jaeschke 2007). Nevertheless, two voluminous books on the history of ethnology have been published in German, dealing mainly with the nineteenth century (Petermann 2004; Hildebrand 2003). Without focusing specifically on the developments of the discipline in Germany, they allow for a better analysis of the way in which German anthropology and ethnography influenced the genesis of structuralist ideas (Adolf Bastian, Karl von den Steinen) or the development of functionalist ideas, from psychology to anthropology (Gustav Theodor Fechner, Theodor Waitz, Wilhelm Wundt). In parallel, the in-depth study of the expeditions of Paul Ehrenreich, Konrad Theodor Preuss, Max Schmidt, Karl von den Steinen and Theodor Koch-Grünberg to the Amazon has enabled analysis of the German ideology of Bildung in its complex interaction with the fieldwork experience. This affects the ways in which the concept of “the field” was determined by the political situation in the country of origin, and how the perception of ethnological working methods was affected by career and disciplinary stakes (Kraus 2004). Indeed, German anthropology, which has immediate associations with Oceania and Africa, has also been deeply Americanist; in turn, Americanist anthropology has been deeply shaped by German anthropologists.

There are several dictionaries concerning the German anthropological tradition (Schweitzer, Schweitzer & Kokot 1993; Feest &Kohl 2001), as well as books dealing with the specific history of ethnology in certain German cities (Smolka 1994; Kohl & Platte 2006; Brandstetter & Lentz 2006; Geisenhainer, Bohrmann & Streck 2014; Putzstück 1995), in relation to certain cultural areas, such as Africa (Stoecker 2008; Esselborn 2018; Stelzig 2002) or focusing on an ethnological museum (Museum der Weltkulturen 2004; Gerhards & Dürrenberger 1995). In particular, the discourse on the role of ethnological museums has gained momentum in recent years with the discussion around the Berlin Humboldt Forum, the flagship of museum ethnology in Germany (Penny 2019; Bredekamp 2019; Kohl et al. 2019; Kraus & Münzel, 2003; https://boasblogs.org/humboldt/).

These epistemological perspectives have been accompanied by a new surge in research into the history of the discipline, its institutionalization, and the figures and places that have marked it. This development can be seen in the case of Adolf Bastian. This prolific but haphazard travelling anthropologist seemed destined to sink into discreet eulogy (Fiedermutz-Laun 1990, 1971), but in recent years publications on his work have multiplied, revealing unsuspected dimensions (Penny 2019, Koepping, 1983, 1995; Fischer, Bolz &Kamel 2007; Buchheit 2005; Chevron 2004).

Austrian anthropology, for its part, is emerging in a new, exciting and critical light, thanks to the research of Irene Ranzmaier (2013), among others. It shows clear parallels with developments in the discipline in Germany, while at the same time being distinguished by its own tradition and specificities (Rupp-Eisenreich/Stagl 1995, Johler 2018). Building on this new research, Andre Gingrich, for example, attempts to identify the singularities of German anthropology and its diffusion in German-speaking areas, in particular Austria and Switzerland (Gringrich, Barth, Parkin & Silverman 2005).

Several research projects have recently been devoted to the history of the discipline in the former German Democratic Republic, revealing the complex divisions that took place after 1945: the inscription of the discipline in a Marxist historical perspective and the continued encounters between ethnologists from the two Germanies (Kreide-Damani, 2020). For the second half of the twentieth century, the reader can turn to the research of Dieter Haller (2012), who explored the archives of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Völkerkunde and the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte, or on a study that reconstructs the place of women ethnologists (Beer 2007). German anthropology in the twenty-first century is not left out, with a 2013 publication attempting a first synthesis that opens up avenues for reflection (Bierschenk, Krings & Lentz).

Writing a history of German and Austrian anthropology and ethnology involves giving an account of the richness of research conducted from 1800 to 1945 and even beyond. By considering the individual journeys of geographers, ethnologists, philosophers, collectors, informants, translators and mediators, or the institutions such as museums, journals, and expeditions, a history of concepts also takes shape. Understanding this tradition of plural thought (Naturvölker/Kulturvölker, Kulturkreis, etc.) implies revisiting the various theoretical and ethnographic paths trodden by German-speaking anthropologists and ethnologists.

Laurent Dedryvère (EILA, Université de Paris)
Jean-Louis Georget (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris)
Hélène Ivanoff (Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt am Main)
Isabelle Kalinowski (CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Richard Kuba (Frobenius Institute, Frankfurt am Main)
Carlotta Santini (CNRS, Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris)
Céline Trautmann-Waller (Université Sorbonne nouvelle-Paris 3/IUF)

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Missionary Anthropology

  • Directed by André Mary (CNRS)

The intention of this research theme is to cover the contribution of missionary agents in the three dimensions or moments encompassed in the field of anthropology, according to Lévi-Strauss (Structural Anthropology I, 1958: 386):

a) Ethnographic contributions are the best known and recognised, particularly via investment in the study and mastery of Indigenous languages, and the production of dictionaries and grammars which later served as guides for the first professional anthropologists;
b) Ethnology of ethnic groups studied “from cellar to attic” in monographic syntheses that continue to be authoritative;
c) The comparative anthropology of so-called traditional beliefs and practices, with the corollary of the challenge of understanding the “native’s point of view”.

Some missionaries’ ethnographic work and anthropological investment, often undertaken in isolation, grew as much out of personal passion as they did from their superiors’ incitement to look for the building blocks or milestones of the evangelical message. The formula is well known: “Understand in order to be understood”. From translating catechisms or the Bible into the vernacular, to producing scholarly treatises on kinship or primitive religion, to the erudite assembly of dictionaries which were sometimes veritable encyclopaedias, these missionaries made a major contribution to the emergence of the nascent discipline of anthropology. The epistemological status of “missionary documentation” (in the Maussian sense), caught between description and interpretation, prompts the global question: “What constitutes “good” ethnography?”

The mission of transmitting the message of the gospel has led us, from the outset, to ponder the linguistic and cognitive problem of translation as anthropological fact, linking language and categories of thought. Concern with converting souls presupposes an understanding of the “native’s point of view” and for some pioneers goes hand in hand with listening to and empathy for the pagan Other. The credo is shared: to understand them and feel as they do in order to better convert them.

The contribution of missionary enterprises to the “institution” of Indigenous cultures and to the process of artification, producing a new “cultural fetishism”, is another more contemporary dimension. It is in line with BEROSE’s concerns regarding the establishment of culture as a production of value and as a place of “transfer of sacredness”.

The research theme devoted to missionary anthropology aims to take all cultural areas beyond “mission fields” and national scholarly traditions into account. The BEROSE Encyclopaedia already contains significant contributions, namely biographical entries dedicated to missionary ethnographers. Around the enterprise of Anthropos and its leader Father Wilhelm Schmidt we find, for example, the pioneering figure of Martin Gusinde and his encounter with the survivors of Tierra del Fuego. In China and other Asian contexts, Father Paul Vial and Léopold Cadière offer a fine example of contributors to the “institution” of culture who invested in ideographic and shamanic languages and writings. The ecumenical figure of Elwin Verrier opened up an Indianist field and the work of others who followed in his footsteps, in particular Jacques Dournes, deserves to be further explored.

The little-known contribution of the Protestant missionaries from Northern Europe who set out for Africa or Madagascar is well represented by Karl Edvard Laman and Lars Vig, or Efraim Andersson. In the same “evangelical” vein, Maurice Leenhardt missionizing in New Caledonia played a major role in the consecration of a “comprehensive” missionary ethnology in the field of Oceanist anthropology. His Catholic colleague Father Francis Aupiais introduced the innovative contribution of visual anthropology to illustrate the encounter between Vodou ceremonialism and Catholic ritualism.

Among other things, this research programme proposes completing the biographical and monographic entries on great ancestors such as Henri-Alexandre Junod on South Africa or Robert Hamill Nassau on Equatorial Africa, or on scholars and key players in anthropological reflection on missionary work such as J. Dournes, mentioned above. The field of studies on the pioneering figures of North and South America remains open. Understudied, sometimes forgotten, missionary anthropology remains a contemporary epistemological laboratory that continues to feed into current anthropological work.


History of Dutch-speaking Anthropology

  • Directed by Thomas Beaufils (Université de Lille, IRHiS UMR CNRS 8529)

Dutch-speaking anthropology is a field of research which has been little explored by researchers in the humanities and social sciences. However, this is a considerable field of study and many archives – access to which is not easy because learning of the Dutch language is uncommon – deserve more intensive investment and exploration. The same applies to the ethnographic contexts historically related to this tradition. While some of its figures have acquired a modest reputation, it is clear that the complex geographical delimitations of these Dutch-speaking “worlds” and the abundant and sometimes nebulous terminology used to designate these territories do not promote the readability and understanding of an anthropology the logic and unity of which are very difficult to guess. Indeed, it is hard for the layman to grasp terms such as the Netherlands, the old Netherlands, the Spanish Netherlands, the Austrian Netherlands, Holland, Flanders, Flanders, French Flanders, Friesland, the Republic of the United Provinces, etc. – not to mention Belgium, whose Dutch-speaking part is not necessarily easy for everyone to distinguish from the French-speaking part.

Dutch or Flemish missionaries, administrators and travellers echoed the life habits of the populations encountered in colonial situations, as early as the establishment of trading posts in the 17th and 18th centuries. From these multiple contacts, a rich Dutch-speaking anthropology was born. In the 19th century, the Kingdom of the Netherlands constituted a vast colonial empire consisting mainly of the Dutch Indies, Suriname and the Dutch Antilles; anthropological production in the context of Belgium’s colonial expansion must also be taken into account, as must that of South Africa, considering its populations of Dutch origin. Dutch and Flemish colonial agents, scholars and writers shared their experiences and discoveries in books that were often of high quality, but which could also prove to be denigrating or subjective towards the populations studied. The birth of anthropology in Belgium and the Netherlands took place mainly in this colonial context.

Domestically, the Dutch and Flemish also undertook ethnographic studies, mainly from the 1910s onwards, to collect field data on folklore and disappearing folk traditions, replaced by modern lifestyles. The Dutch language distinguishes between Volkenkunde (ethnology of non-European civilizations) and Volkskunde (ethnology of the Netherlands and Flanders, often translated as folklore). It was also in the 1910s that another type of ethnologist appeared, such as J. P. B. de Josselin de Jong, leader of the famous Leiden anthropological school, who distanced himself from the colonial policy of the Dutch state and even took sides with the colonized populations until he became involved, intellectually speaking, in the struggle for their independence.

Since the 1950s, Dutch-speaking anthropology has no longer been limited only to former colonial and national territories, but has become very open to extremely diverse regions around the world. Many figures have marked or still mark Dutch and Belgian post-war anthropology. The end of the colonies and the profound transformation of their societies have led to a radical paradigm shift for Belgian and Dutch anthropologists, following a new post-colonial sensitivity. On the other hand, it was quite late that the discipline ceased to be a field of study exclusively reserved for a male intelligentsia. Within the framework of the research theme “History of Dutch-speaking anthropology”, BEROSE proposes that the diversity and transformations of this anthropology should be made more visible and by participating in a better delimitation of this field of study through topical files that will present ethnologists and anthropologists, the journals and institutions that constitute the history of this anthropology, as well as anthropological concepts, themes and traditions related to our core problematics.

The massive digitisation of ethnographic documents and collections, currently underway in Flanders and the Netherlands, promotes greater collaboration between researchers, research organisations, libraries and museum institutions around the world. One can only hope that this considerable effort to make documents available will make it possible to produce new research in the field of the history of Dutch-speaking anthropology and to give birth to a generation of young researchers who will in turn take up this exciting subject to study. The contributions presented in BEROSE will contribute to this effort and will highlight in particular the fruitful links and interactions between Dutch-speaking anthropology and other national traditions.

Thomas Beaufils

This presentation is an abridged version of Beaufils, Thomas, 2019.« Anthropologie néerlandophone : une introduction historique » , in BEROSE - International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.


Histories of Anthropology in Brazil

  • Directed by Stefania Capone (CNRS, CéSor) and Fernanda Arêas Peixoto(Universidade de São Paulo).

Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima (Universidade federal do Rio de Janeiro)


There is a great diversity of anthropological practices in Brazil. They are indeed a plural reality due to the themes and fields, problems and orientations involved. While Brazilian anthropology is best known for its studies on Amerindian populations and Afro-Brazilian religions, it is not limited to these major traditions of study, but also includes urban and rural anthropology and political anthropology, among others. It is thus difficult to embrace this complex whole at a single glance and to articulate it in a single historical trajectory. To produce a unified history of anthropology in Brazil would be a misleading goal, considering its ever-challenging chronological landmarks – whether the “discovery”, in 1500, of the territory later called Brazil, or the creation of the first scientific institutions in the 19th century, or even the late emergence of universities in the 1930s, when specialities and disciplines emerged more clearly. Our choice is to reconstruct the ramifications that led to the consolidation of different research traditions by retracing matrices of thought and lines of divergence across space and time. The first challenge, in order to reflect this multiple framework, is to let this heterogeneity and complexity appear and to make these differences a compass.

The aim is to draw a map that respects the regional diversity of a country with multiple centres of intellectual production, taking into account epochal and institutional differences (museums, institutes, associations and universities), without neglecting the diversity of the actors themselves: Brazilian or foreign, male or female, black, white, mixed or Amerindian. We must take into account the border areas, the circulation between “scholarly” and “artistic” knowledge, “erudite” and “popular”, “professional” and “amateur”. All these forms are at the heart of the anthropological relationship between “researchers” and “informants”. On the one hand, the essentialization of any of these categories should be avoided; on the other hand, they are an integral part of the reflection on the history of anthropology in Brazil. Attention must also be paid to the ways in which ideas and practices circulate from one disciplinary territory to another (history, sociology, archaeology, literary studies, etc.), and even between areas defined as “scientific” and “political”.

To reconstruct the dense nature of the characters, outcomes and landscapes in this panorama of anthropologies practised in Brazil, it is important to trace both individual and collective projects and to sketch the fields in which they gravitate. Even before there were any institutional loci devoted to the training of anthropologists stricto sensu, there was a production of ethnographic or anthropological knowledge by naturalists, chroniclers, missionaries and painters, who travelled all over Brazil from the 16th century onwards. They were the first to identify and analyse some of the fundamental dimensions of the Brazilian natural landscape, social life and cultural manifestations. Then it is also necessary to take into account folklorists and other learned figures of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The generation of thinkers who produced important essays on the process of formation of the Brazilian nation in the 1920s and 1930s – such as Euclides da Cunha, Paulo da Silva Prado, Francisco José de Oliveira Vianna, Gilberto Freyre and Sérgio Buarque de Holanda – profoundly influenced anthropological studies in Brazil, but also abroad. Similarly, figures who studied in Brazilian universities, which had just been founded in the 1930s, are at the origin of seminal anthropological studies despite their roots in other disciplines. Let us add some other names from the national literary canon, such as the poets of modernism of 1922, Oswald de Andrade and Mário de Andrade, to whom we owe original theories on national culture, still fruitful for contemporary anthropology. Brazil has also been one of the privileged lands of several generations of foreign ethnographers and ethnologists who have sometimes influenced local scholarly practices, such as the Germans Karl von den Steinen and Curt Nimuendajù, or the Frenchmen Roger Bastide and Claude Lévi-Strauss.

In addition to the authors and their works, it is also necessary to highlight the various centres of production of anthropological knowledge, as well as the scientific institutions, centres and associations that have built ethnographic collections and organized training courses. Similarly, research missions, conferences and journals allow us to rediscover personalities and matrices of anthropology that have now been forgotten. This work of analysing the formation of the anthropological field cannot, of course, be done without the study of the links between Brazilian and foreign researchers, as between scholars and institutions that actually precede the institutionalization of anthropology in Brazil. In this presentation of the “Histories of Anthropology in Brazil” as a research theme, the priority of creating an intellectual mapping also allows us to highlight the historical milestones and political events that have influenced the production of knowledge in general and anthropology in particular, both in terms of its actors and its centres of activity. In other words, space and time are the parameters of this mapping of anthropologies practised in Brazil from yesterday to nowadays, which can only be understood through their international connections. Without attempting to provide an exhaustive picture or synthesis, the dossiers that enrich this research programme are intended to identify paths and trajectories that BEROSE readers will follow in the order and direction they consider most appropriate, each one in turn being free to create new links and connections between them.

Stefania Capone
Fernanda Arêas Peixoto

This presentation is an abridged version of Capone, Stefania & Fernanda Arêas Peixoto, 2019. “Anthropologies in Brazil: A Short HistoricalIntroduction”, in BEROSE - International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.


Anthropology of the South American Lowlands

  • Directed by Isabelle Combès (IFEA, CIHA - Santa Cruz de la Sierra ; TEIAA Barcelona), Lorena Córdoba (CONICET/UCA, Buenos Aires - CIHA - Santa Cruz de la Sierra) and Diego Villar (CONICET/UCA, Buenos Aires - CIHA - Santa Cruz de la Sierra)

Since the first contacts, the “lowlands” of South America have been defined in a residual way, as the term referred to all the regions that do not belong to the Andes: the immense Amazon, the Chaco, Patagonia and the Atlantic coast. In fact, the lowlands were thought of as a sort of negative image of the picture that Andean societies presented to the conquistadores: like Central America, with its kings and nobles, its numerous armies, its productive surpluses and its monumental constructions, the Andes and its inhabitants offered an exotic image, certainly. But it was also one that was more understandable or, at the very least, easier to identify: the image of a consolidated state, of farming and sedentary peoples, with a certain demographic density, and more familiar to Europeans. Therefore it is not surprising that in trying to understand the peoples who lived east of the Andes, beyond the Piedmont, European observers most often recycled the prejudices, generic categories and stereotypes of savagery or barbarity that were held by the Andean peoples themselves, who thought of the peoples of the lowlands through the reductive prism of the “Anti”, the “Chuncho” or the “Chiriguano” – all generic and contemptuous terms, equivalent to our “savages” or “barbarians”.

A large part of this imagery of otherness – whose most complete paradigm is perhaps the Jesuit proto-ethnography of José de Acosta (1540-1600), or that of Martin Dobrizhoffer (1717-1791) – has survived in the observations accumulated by missionaries, naturalists, government officials, adventurers and explorers. During the colonial era and then in the 19th century after the South American Independencies, they entered Native American lands for various reasons and recorded their experiences in writing. In doing so, consciously or unconsciously, these characters became the ancestors of South American lowland anthropology and ethnohistory. However, the canonical opposition between Andean “civilization” (associated en bloc with complexity and social differentiation, centralization and hierarchy) and lowland “barbarism” (associated with simplicity, atomization, autarchy or egalitarianism) is not the only prejudice that marked the colonial exegesis of South American otherness. Beyond the recognition of the exuberance of the natural environment and the diversity of the indigenous landscape of the lowlands – linguistic families of a surprising extent, hundreds of languages and an extremely polychrome cultural heritage – the work of the “classical” ancestors of South American ethnology, such as Erland Nordenskiöld (1877-1932), Karl von den Steinen (1855-1929), Curt Nimuendajú (1883-1945) or Alfred Métraux (1902-1963), shows that other notorious prejudices have persisted to a greater or lesser extent. One thinks of implicit evolutionary theories, explanations by the diffusion of cultural traits, or a certain typological inclination, not to mention certain utopian idealizations: primitive communism, the good savage, the small community, the Natürvolker and the ecological indigenous peoples.

Once the institutional professionalization of the discipline of anthropology was consolidated during the first half of the 20th century, particularly in Europe and the United States, thematic sedimentation continued its singular drift. The icon of canonization is undoubtedly the Handbook of South American Indians (1946-1950) edited by Julian Steward (1902-1972): the classification of South America into “cultural areas”, the environment considered as a limiting factor of human adaptation, and the consequent evolutionary levels of social integration. Following the heuristic leap caused, twenty years later, by the cryptic Mythologiques (1964-1971) of Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908-2009), the construction of the anthropological canon gave rise to a kind of exponential explosion of studies devoted to the lowlands of South America: a new anthropological imaginary of the lowlands emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century, characterized by the search for synergy between structural and historical explanations and by the preference for interdisciplinary synthesis. In this new landscape, classic readings have had to learn to coexist with studies of ethnogenesis and ethnicity, with historical anthropology and with the deconstructionist critique of postmodern anthropology, gender studies, postcolonial studies and even the current fashion of the ontological turn, while gradually integrating indigenous scholars themselves.

Contemporary analysis increasingly calls upon an imagination that imposes the fluid realities of hybridization, crossbreeding or multilingualism. It also seems that the opposition between the lowlands and the highlands as independent, even antagonistic universes belongs to the past. Lowland anthropology continues to gain ground in the generalist arena, even daring to rebuild some of the ancient comparative bridges, while elucidating internal heterogeneity. And finally, light remains to be shed on a whole range of epistemological nuances generated by academic geopolitics. In a world of increasing professionalisation and globalisation, the research theme “Anthropology of the Lowlands of South America” seeks to retrace the process of historical formation of disciplinary lineages, thematic axes and their respective heterodoxies, taking as much interest in the life, work and production contexts of renowned authors as in those of other forgotten or little-known figures in anthropology. Our desire is to reconstruct a plural genealogy of the individuals, networks, trends and institutions that have contributed to shaping subdisciplinary knowledge and current views of the South American lowlands.

Isabelle Combès
Lorena Córdoba
Diego Villar


History of Colombian Anthropology

  • Directed by Aura Lisette Reyes (Colciencias-Universidad Nacional de Colombia, ICANH)

Anthropologies and Nation Building in Cuba and Haiti (1930-1990)

  • Directed by Kali Argyriadis (IRD, Université Paris-Diderot, URMIS) and Maud Laëthier (IRD, Université Paris-Diderot, URMIS)

Jhon Picard Byron (Université d’État d’Haïti, LADIREP)
Lázara Y. Carrazana (Instituto Cubano de Antropología)
Emma Gobin (Université Paris 8, LAVUE)
Niurka Núñez González (Instituto Cubano de Investigación Cultural Juan Marinello)


The proposal of this research theme is to address the comparative history of social and cultural anthropology in Cuba and Haiti between the 1930s and the 1970s, a pivotal period during which the discipline was consolidated and institutionalized in both countries. We are particularly interested in the connections between anthropological thought and the process of building national and cultural identities in Haitian and Cuban contexts. While the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th have been the subject of valuable work, that later period still remains to be analysed in several respects.

Initially started in Haiti (as part of the project Ethnology in Haiti: Writing the history of the discipline towards its renewal, JEHAI IRD/FE-UEH) and in Cuba (as part of the project Social Anthropology in Cuba. Reconstructing the past to cement the future, JEAI IRD/ICICIC/ICAN), then in France, within the LMI MESO laboratory), this research gave rise to initial reflections, notably contained in the book Cuba-Haïti : Engager l’anthropologie. Anthologie critique et histoire comparée (1884-1959) (Cuba-Haiti: Engaging Anthropology. Critical Anthology and Comparative History (1884-1959), Argyriadis, Gobin, Laëthier, Núñez González & Byron, 2020).

By focusing on the period from the 1930s to the 1970s, we intend to continue the analysis of the different ways in which ethnologies ’of the self’, ’for the self’ and ’for the Other’ seek to reaffirm a ’national cultural identity’ which legitimises and ultimately institutes certain objects as ’cultural signs’: race, nation, religious practices, folklore, the rural world. These crucial years are marked by singular figures, precursor texts and original debates which are now well documented in terms of the development of the discipline on a national scale, but which remain little understood in terms of their importance in regional and international anthropological debates.

By putting into perspective the studies produced in and on Haiti and Cuba, we aim to shed light on variable processes of circulation of people, ideas, paradigms and concepts. Our goal is to understand how these processes have led to the interplay of influences between these two ’national anthropologies’ and other anthropological traditions, mainly North American and European. These decades were indeed marked by the displacement to France, the United States and Mexico of many Cuban and Haitian intellectuals engaged in the struggle against their respective governments; then, from the 1940s onwards, by the displacement of many European intellectuals to the Americas, for whom Haiti and Cuba were to constitute favoured fields of study.

Our aim is to analyse the emergence of intellectual, institutional, political, sometimes militant, national and international networks, as well as to study the career paths of certain figures through several geographical spaces, disciplinary fields and fields of action (academic, political, artistic, literary or even religious). Their role in the dissemination of anthropological knowledge in Cuba and Haiti is part of the work of redefining national identities. Moreover, the categories of Otherness in the region (including in the United States), deserve special attention. In sum, we will reflect on the peculiar interweaving of anthropological thought and political discourse, as revealed by the Haitian and Cuban cases.


History of Portuguese Anthropology and Ethnographic Archives (19th-21st century)

  • Directed by Sónia Vespeira de Almeida (CRIA/NOVA FCSH, Lisbon) and Rita Ávila Cachado (CIES-IUL, Lisbon)

The research theme History of Portuguese Anthropology and Ethnographic Archives (19th-21st centuries), in the framework of BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, follows the trajectory of Portuguese anthropology between the 19th and 21st centuries. It seeks to identify its protagonists and research themes and the theoretical and methodological contributions of a learned tradition whose challenges during this period concerned the construction of the “nation”, the construction of the “empire” or both (Stocking, 1982; Leal, 2000, 2006, 2008; Viegas & Pina-Cabral, 2014).

It should be noted that ethnographic and protoanthropological production from the 15th to 18th centuries is not taken into account. The chronology considered dates back to the 19th century; the research theme then focuses on the 20th century, not forgetting contemporary Portuguese anthropology. This period alone may give rise to important debates. In fact, Portuguese colonialism – especially late imperialism – coincides with a fundamental part of anthropological production, namely in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; all the figures and institutions that contributed to ethnographic knowledge in the former Portuguese colonies were confronted with the ambiguities of colonial situations. These ambiguities, moreover, persist in one way or another, and concern both the Portuguese context and that of the former colonies: Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe became independent in 1975, only after the famous 1974 Carnation Revolution (which ended 48 years of dictatorship in Portugal); East Timor also became independent in 1975, but was invaded by Indonesia and only became independent again in 2002. The Portuguese enclaves of Goa, Daman and Diu were integrated into the Indian Union in 1961.

This challenge is important because it makes this research theme – like others in the context of BEROSE which refer to former colonial contexts – not only a meeting point for encyclopaedic publications, but also a platform with critical analysis of different anthropological currents and debates.

The research theme also aims to spotlight figures whose trajectories are, as yet, underexamined and who contributed to the development of knowledge about Portuguese contexts or those colonized by Portugal during the period following the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. The same applies to institutions and publications. The aim is to aggregate and problematize both ethnographic knowledge and anthropological ideas in their different fields, from classification to museology, from salvaging ethnographic enterprises to comparison. This will be done without neglecting international influences, and taking also into account the anachronisms of a country that was both imperial and peripheral.

The historiography of Portuguese anthropology is unanimous in identifying the central figures of this tradition – particularly with regard to studies on the “Portuguese people” at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century: the names of Teófilo Braga, Adolfo Coelho, Consiglieri Pedroso, Leite de Vasconcelos and Rocha Peixoto are essential references (Pina-Cabral 1991; Bastos and Sobral 2017: 2; Leal 2000: 29).

However, the anthropologist who has caused rivers of ink to flow is undoubtedly Jorge Dias, who was at the epicentre of the renewal and modernization of the discipline in the second half of the 20th century. It was around this figure that a remarkable team of anthropologists developed, who made a unique contribution to the knowledge of Portuguese rural traditions. A central figure in the Centro de Estudos de Etnologia Peninsular (Centre for the Study of Peninsular Ethnology), Jorge Dias’ name was linked to the creation of the Museu de Etnologia do Ultramar (Overseas Museum of Ethnology) in 1965 (Leal 2000; Pereira 1989) and its subsequent reorientation towards the “representation of all cultures” (Pereira 198: 580). Although in different ways, João de Pina-Cabral (1991), João Leal (2006), José Manuel Sobral (2007), Jorge de Freitas Branco (2014), Cristiana Bastos and Sobral (2017) concur that Jorge Dias acts as a fundamental, yet not uncontroversial character (West 2006 ; Sobral 2007) in the development of Portuguese anthropology.

The role played by those whom João Leal (2006) calls “foreigners” in Portugal must also be taken into account: some were effectively foreign anthropologists who worked in Portugal in the late 1970s, but there were also Portuguese anthropologists who returned home after the Revolution of 25th April, 1974 – they had completed their university studies elsewhere and contributed to the reformulation of the master’s degree in anthropology at the Instituto Superior de Ciências Sociais e Políticas Ultramarinas (Higher Institute for Overseas Social and Political Sciences) (Branco 2014: 368). The activity of both groups was decisive in integrating Portuguese anthropology into international debates on the discipline.

Looking at the developments of Portuguese anthropology through the history of its institutionalization is also, as foreseen in this research theme, a good way to deepen the understanding of the contexts where ethnographic and anthropological knowledge production occurred. Thus, we intend to address anthropologists’ practices (Sanjek 1990) and contribute to the debates on the importance of safeguarding ethnographic materials and the anthropologists’ archives (Almeida & Cachado 2016, 2019).

Recent articles on the Portuguese anthropological tradition, published in the 2010s, also seek to reflect the diversity of the branches that have developed lately. Cristiana Bastos and José Manuel Sobral not only list the anthropologists of their generation and their respective contributions, but also address the next generation (Bastos and Sobral 2017). It is our ambition to provide a historical perspective on contemporary anthropology, its production and main fields of current research. While Portuguese anthropology focused mainly on the rural country until 25th April, 1974, the fact is that this trend continued after the revolution and into the early 1990s. It is only from the 1990s on that Portuguese anthropology broached urban contexts (Cordeiro 2003). By also focusing on contemporary Portuguese anthropology, our ambition is to contribute to the knowledge of the different ways of doing anthropology today, which are increasingly disperse in different universities, departments and research centres.

In short, the research theme History of Anthropology and Portuguese Ethnographic Archives (19th-21st centuries) seeks to:
- Foster better knowledge, both in Portuguese-speaking and international contexts, of the history of Portuguese anthropology;
- Strengthen the safeguarding of Portuguese ethnographic archives;
- Contribute to a broader mapping of the ethnographic contexts chosen and worked on by Portuguese anthropologists, as well as the methodologies, theoretical frameworks and academic settings for knowledge production;
- Stimulate the production of biographical articles on Portuguese anthropologists and ethnographers or those working in Portuguese contexts, as well as articles relating to institutions such as museums, scientific journals or research centres.

Sónia Vespeira de Almeida
Rita Ávila Cachado

References cited

ALMEIDA, Sónia Vespeira; CACHADO, Rita, 2019, “Archiving Anthropology in Portugal”, Anthropology Today, 35 (1), pp. 22-25.
ALMEIDA, Sónia Vespeira; CACHADO, Rita, 2016, Os Arquivos dos Antropólogos, Lisbon, Palavrão.
BASTOS, Cristiana; SOBRAL, José Manuel, 2018, “Portugal, Anthropology in”. In H. Callan (ed.), The International, Encyclopedia of Anthropology, doi: 10.1002/9781118924396.wbiea1974
WHITE, Jorge Freitas, 2014, “Sentidos da antropologia em Portugal na década de 1970”, Etnográfica [Online], vol. 18 (2), accessed July 09, 2014, URL: http:// etnografica.revues.org/3732; DOI: 10,4000/etnografica.3732
CORDEIRO, Graça Índias, 2003, “A antropologia urbana entre a tradição e a prática” in Graça Índias Cordeiro, Luís V. Baptista & António F. da Costa (Org.), Etnografias Urbanas, Oeiras, Celta: 3-32
LEAL, João, 2000, Etnografias Portuguesas (1870-1970): Cultura Popular e Identidade Nacional, Lisbon, Publicações Dom Quixote
LEAL, João, 2003, “Estrangeiros em Portugal: a antropologia das comunidades rurais portuguesas nos anos 1960”, Ler História, 44, pp. 155-176.
LEAL, João, 2006, Antropologia em Portugal: Mestres, Percursos, Transições, Lisbon, Livros Horizonte
LEAL, João, 2008, “The Hidden Empire: Peasants, Nation Building and the Empire in Portuguese Anthropology”. In S. R. Roseman & S. Parkhurst (eds.), Recasting Culture and Space in Iberian Contexts. Albany, NY, State University of New York Press, pp. 35-53
PINA-CABRAL, João, 1991, Os contextos da antropologia, Lisboa, Difel
SANJEK, Roger (ed.), (1990), Fieldnotes. The makings of Anthropology, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press
SOBRAL, José Manuel, 2007, “O Outro aqui tão próximo: Jorge Dias e a redescoberta de Portugal pela antropologia Portuguesa (anos 70-80 do século XX)”, Revista de História das Ideias, 28, pp. 479-526.
STOCKING, Jr., George W., 1982, “Afterword: A View from the Center”, Ethnos, 47, pp. 172-186
VIEGAS, Susana de Matos; PINA-CABRAL, João de, 2014, “Na encruzilhada portuguesa: a antropologia contemporânea e a sua história”, Etnográfica [Online], vol. 18 (2), Accessed 30 September 2016. URL: http://etnografica.revues.org/3694
WEST, Harry G., 2006, “Invertendo a Bossa do Camelo. Jorge Dias, a sua mulher, o seu intérprete e eu”, In Sanches, Manuela Ribeiro (eds.), Portugal não é um país pequeno. Lisbon, Livros Cotovia, pp. 141-190


History of Italian Anthropology

  • Directed by Giordana Charuty (EPHE, IIAC)

Anthropology is now identified in the Italian academic field under a name which is unique in Europe: “demo-ethno-anthropological sciences”. This idiosyncratic term refers to a process of historical construction, whether within the dynamics of knowledge formation and circulation on a European scale or withdrawn into relative insularity. More than a date of birth, the 1870s were a landmark in distinguishing the two main orientations that somehow remained in conflict, albeit in creative ways, until after the Second World War. The first borrowed a model of scientificity from the natural sciences which was reinforced by adherence to Darwinism in order to insert the study of the Italic peoples into a comparative psychology of the human race. The second favoured the historical sciences through their link with philology in order for the new discipline of folklore to be recognized in the academic field. Between these two centres of institutionalization and intellectual sociability, the boundaries are all the more tenuous as, following opposing styles of scholarly life, they both claimed the rights to the definition of the discipline, standardization and centralization of research.

With regard to the establishment of a natural science of man in Italy, the enterprise led by Paolo Mantegazza had a primary role: to affirm the complementarity of the natural and historical sciences in order to reach a general anthropology based upon physical anthropology. The ambition was to coordinate several forms of knowledge, some oriented towards criteria of hominization, others towards the study of cultures and their diversity. Political links with intellectuals involved in the Risorgimento and scientific links with the École anthropologique de Paris made it possible to attract the international intellectual capital of the new kingdom, doctors, zoologists, lawyers, historians, geographers and orientalists to Florence. They organized expeditions and, a few years later, established other chairs in Rome and Naples, created other specializations (such as Cesare Lombroso’s criminal anthropology in Turin), and other museums, including one in Rome, the new capital of unified Italy. They developed survey instruments for a comparative psychology of human races and wrote the first manuals of anthropology and ethnography – in the sense that this term then took on to distinguish the surveys conducted in Italy.

As for the diversity of Italian folklore, it entered the fields of interest of Florentine society in terms of “superstitions” and “prejudices”. At the same time, the philological model dominated the process of affirming the autonomy of the study of European cultures in the Italian context of national unification, either from the perspective of comparative mythology or from that of the science of folklore. In the first half of the 19th century, the collection, transcription, translation and publication of songs and oral traditions were part of the romantic perspective of cultural renewal as a premise for political renewal. In a divided and occupied Italy, it was a question of rediscovering the common heritage that constituted unity of the people. From the 1860s onwards, the transfer of German philology to the Italian context supported the construction of a new science by integrating the study of sung poetry and folk narratives to complete the study of all literatures. At the same time, the explanatory ambitions of comparative mythology ensured the transition between philology and ethnography. Names such as Domenico Comparetti or Angelo De Gubernatis are obvious references.

However, it was in Sicily, with Giuseppe Pitrè and Salvatore Salomone-Marino, that “demology” was systematically constructed in relation to the main European centres – setting the categories of social life that fell within its domain for a long time until its university recognition in Palermo, in 1911, under the name of “demopsychology”. The historical depth of the discipline was delimited and its thematic axes were fixed: it focused on the social life of the present, a view informed jointly by Edward Tylor’s sociocultural evolutionism and Friedrich Max Müller’s comparative mythology, as two complementary knowledge programmes to define the autonomy of its object and methods.

Long before and long after the crystallization of these two Florentine and Sicilian poles, and in parallel with the structuring of knowledge they put into place, there is an interest that can be described as ethnographic in a broader sense, within progressive or conservative institutions in local societies. These are, to a large extent, dependent on the complex process of political unification that distinguishes Italy within the Europe of nations. It is also necessary to revisit the plurality of conceptions of “folk” or “popular” that have been expressed since the 1880s, in exchanges between scholars with diverse identities, whether they were medieval philologists, orientalists or ethnographers of contemporary oral tradition, among others.

Restoring the existential and intellectual trajectories of the figures of founders or re-founders by exploring and crossing the various archival collections available leads to a rethinking of key moments in this history of the knowledge of Otherness, internal and external, under continuous construction. Thanks to the opening of the archives and the amount of biographical data now available, historians of the Italian “anthropological” tradition are also invited to rethink the status of certain figures, from Lamberto Loria to Raffaele Pettazzoni, without forgetting lesser-known, even obscure, characters, for example ethnographer-missionaries. Pettazzoni, at the head of the scientific construction of an Italian path of religious anthropology which was clearly differentiated from Durkheimian sociology was, moreover, the very active craftsman of a university establishment of ethnology.

Needless to say, the Mussolini regime gave remarkable academic recognition to the study of folk traditions, notably through the creation of three university courses. The break with this paradigm was to be epistemological, ideological and aesthetic. In a word, the fall of fascism led to a political conversion of ethnological studies. Revisiting, by crossing several archival collections, the life work of Ernesto De Martino, a figure retrospectively perceived as the founder of ethnology at home after the Second World War, leads us to rethink the continuities and breaks produced by the twenty-year journey of fascism. The debates on folk culture based on the Gramscian opposition between hegemony and subordination fuelled the mobilization of left-wing intellectuals in the 1950s for the renewal of values and expressive languages. Ethnomusicology collections, neo-realistic photography and the rewriting of narrative traditions by literary avant-gardes are all ways of recreating poetics.

At the same time, the history of religions and ethnology at home replaced the essentialization of nations/peoples with a comparative study of the “compromise formations” that run through the religious history of Mediterranean societies, but also of the syncretic formations that accompany decolonization movements outside Europe. Chairs were created in the history of religions and ethnology at the universities of Bari and Cagliari, which belatedly gave a university foundation to a number of researchers. Those, like De Martino and Vittorio Lanternari (1918-2010), who trained at the Pettazzoni school built an Italian path in the international field of the study of religious syncretisms, a path that maintained a privileged dialogue with French ethnologists and sociologists. In parallel with this renaissance, several young Italian researchers were hosted at American universities while American researchers undertook community studies in Italy. In the 1960s, these first encounters gave rise to a North American-inspired cultural anthropology that took over from community studies, often conducted in the 1950s by foreign researchers with links to Italy in their biographical careers. At the same time, the Vatican continued to invest in ethnological training for its missionaries.

Since the mid-1980s, much work has made us aware of the institutions, intellectual traditions, working tools and achievements of these many “demo-ethno-anthropological” enterprises. These historiographic achievements can be renewed, particularly in the context of BEROSE and the research theme “History of Italian Anthropology”, through an ethnographic reading of the archives and biographical trajectories. It is centred on the interaction between, on the one hand, the experience of cultural Otherness and intimacy, and, on the other hand, the choice of models that allow them to be thought upon. The study of correspondence and anthropological journals may be combined with the reconstruction of networks of professional and militant sociability beyond the national framework. Along with the attention paid to individual mobility, they allow a more detailed approach to the political, intellectual and cultural commitments of scientists, whether academics, scholars or amateurs. In a nation that was not constituted as a state until 1860, the alliances and antagonisms between all these actors drew strong regional polarizations that lasted for nearly a century.

Giordana Charuty

This presentation is an abridged version of Charuty, Giordana, 2019.« Histoires croisées de l’anthropologie italienne (XIXe-XXIe siècle) » , in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l’anthropologie, Paris.


History of Japanese Anthropology

  • Directed by Alice Berthon (CRJ/EHESS & CEJ/INALCO), Damien Kunik (Musée d’ethnographie de Genève) and Nicolas Mollard (Université Lyon III Jean Moulin, IETT)

The purpose of this research theme is to provide an overview of four centuries of development of Japanese anthropological thought, from its scientific premises in the seventeenth century to its most contemporary challenges.

With the unification of Japan’s national territory at the beginning of the seventeenth century, the context of lasting political peace favoured the development of science and the arts, as well as the cultural empowerment of the country in relation to its neighbours. At that time, Japan began to question its identity in the face of the otherness encountered here and there during regular contacts, to respond to the pre-eminence of the Chinese civilizational model or to the proselytism of Christian missionaries, to stage its cultural centrality in the region, to draw up an inventory of its heritage or its provincial specificities, and finally, more generally, to establish scholarly practices in science that flourished, multiplied and specialized.

The study of this intellectual context is imperative first of all to grasp the foundations of a self-aware Japanese anthropology, as it emerged between the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century. It is indeed these achievements that formed Japan’s intellectual framework when new competing empires, the Russian or British in particular, arrived in the region. These frightened a country that had been relatively isolated from the world since the seventeenth century. Nevertheless, if the acquisition of intellectual and technical tools enabling Japan to fight with identical means became a government priority as soon as foreign powers sought to force their way into the country in the mid-nineteenth century, the effort to reorganize knowledge that was already well established must be fully appreciated. It supported and guided the willingness to acquire new knowledge.

Secondly, the birth of modern Japanese anthropology was part of the process of inventing a young nation-state, worried and fascinated by the power struggles that were being played out on its doorstep. It was only once the initial threat of the country’s annexation had been averted that Japanese anthropology would formalize its discourse and methods within institutions (universities, of course, but also many independent learned societies) newly created on an exogenous model to respond on equal scientific footing to the Western presence in Asia. Scientific relations between Japan and the West developed considerably between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1910s.

The Western expansionist and imperialist model would also be replicated in Japan and would allow Japanese anthropology to experience a third wave of development. From the beginning of the twentieth century, the Japanese colonial empire gradually extended over the entire region, towards Taiwan, Korea, Manchuria, South-East Asia and Insulinde, then towards the islands and archipelagos of the Pacific. Indeed, until 1945, the most dynamic institutionalized anthropological practice in Asia was that of a non-Western power, Japan.

In parallel with this development of Japanese anthropology from the end of the nineteenth century to the end of the Second World War, which was mainly in the academic world, other specificities of Japanese ethnographic sciences should be noted: the continuity of folk studies, a discipline related to anthropology and history, but concerned about its autonomy since the end of the nineteenth century; that of the historical importance of letters and literature in anthropological discourse; an aesthetic treatment of the subjects of study, as some ethnologists have never really accepted a Western division of arts and sciences perceived as Manichaean; an ethnology practised by a significant number of researchers not aligned with the methodological presuppositions of the dominant schools; a museum history that is sometimes stagnant; or a complex relationship with its counterparts on the international scene.

At the end of this intense period of formal development of Japanese anthropology until the end of the Second World War, it is also important to note the way in which the human sciences were reformulated in a country that was militarily defeated and occupied. Japan having lost its entire colonial territory, the postcolonial ethnological shift is much more sudden for this very reason and the misuses of the human sciences are more quickly debated. In the academic world, the expansionist enterprise was widely criticized as early as 1946 and, as early as the 1950s, a new generation of anthropologists was inspired by the American model to give a new direction to ethnology practised outside the metropolitan territory. On Japanese soil, folk studies were gaining visibility and legitimacy for having little association with the previous militaristic government (or, at least, more surreptitiously). The combination of these two factors allowed post-war Japanese anthropology to retain some very remarkable features.

During the same years, Japan was experiencing a rapid economic recovery which, at the same time, legitimized a new form of pride in the Japanese scientific enterprise and provided it with significant research funds. This rebirth would eventually be undermined by the abrupt end of the period of high growth, which was accompanied by several natural and human disasters between the last years of the twentieth and the first years of the twenty-first century, and which once again reconfigured the ambitions of Japanese anthropology.

Without ever claiming to produce a linear narrative, we aim here to isolate the threads and relationships that are specific to the nature of a practice conscious of its specificities, methods and developments. These are little known in the West since Japanese anthropology, although extremely fertile, is little translated and continues today to produce most of its results for a strictly Japanese audience. Our ambition is therefore to make its figures, motives and fundamentals known for the benefit of a non-Japanese readership.

Alice Berthon
Damien Kunik
Nicolas Mollard

See also Berthon, Alice, Damien Kunik & Nicolas Mollard, 2019. « Brève histoire de l’ethnologie au Japon (XVIIe-XXIe siècles) », in BEROSE - International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.


History of Anthropology in Australasia (1900-2000)

Directed by Geoffrey Gray (University of Queensland)

Anthropological Horizons, Histories of Ethnology and Folklore in Turkey

  • Directed by Hande Birkalan-Gedik (Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Institut für Kulturanthropologie und Europäische Ethnologie, Frankfurt am Main) and Abdurrahim Ozmen (Dicle Üniversitesi, Diyarbakir)

As a “national” tradition attuned to international scholarship, anthropology in Turkey is of interest to explore from the 1850s, when several anthropological concepts and theories from Europe were skillfully adapted to and came into interaction with the Turkish case. These include social Darwinism and evolutionism and materialism, but also, later, discourses on nationalism – philosophical and ideological trends which the Ottoman elite discussed in a variety of intellectual circles. The interactions between European anthropological landscape and that of the Ottoman Empire were more than ‘travelling theory’ or theory travelling one way to the Muslim State. In any case, Turkish scholars had to navigate new scientific ideas within the context of a Muslim society ruled by the Ottoman sultan, who was also the caliph, i.e. the uppermost representative of the Islamic community. This is particularly interesting when one thinks about the despotism of Sultan Abdulhamid II, who ruled from 1876 to 1909, and who was toppled by the Young Turks, but also about the later political developments and disciplinary trajectories in the following years. Ethnological sciences in the Ottoman Empire, as later in the Turkish Republic, must be understood in relation to a political history in which various actors and institutions actively produced anthropological knowledge from a specific habitus. In this framework, the borders of politics and the disciplines became extremely porous since the intelligentsia and political leaders worked hand in hand, facilitating knowledge transfer between different but interconnected actors, sources, sites and institutions.

Despite earlier interactions with Europe and the European anthropological landscape in the Ottoman Empire, the intricate and interesting history of anthropology, folklore and ethnology in Turkey have been insufficiently documented. It must be underlined that, at the end of the 19th century, anthropology in Turkey was mostly understood through terms corresponding to ethnology and ethnography. The ethnographic component, although not openly spelled out, was present through the use of descriptive elements on human diversity, revealing a “cosmopolitan” view that fitted into Ottoman concepts. As for the term Antropolociya (anthropology), it referred to physical anthropology.

With the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, most of the administration and political cadres followed Turkish nationalism (Toprak 2012), which caused a long-lasting impact on anthropology – that is, on what was then termed ethnology – taking it from a cosmopolitan, humanist and open vision to that of a local, national and introverted one. This paradigm, with minor revisions, still holds true for some anthropological studies even today. Around the same time, particularly from its institutionalization in 1925, physical anthropology became the flagship of Turkish nation-building to which certain anthropologists contributed through peculiar arguments such as the Sun-Language Theory and the Turkish History Thesis, promoting linguistic ethno-nationalism or the “superiority of the Turkish race” after defeat in the First World War. Folklore studies also helped solidify these claims and fired the idea of a homogenous nation from within. A certain version of nationalism is what connected these disciplines following the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, but on the other hand, it became a divisive factor concerning the kinds of labour and the genres that were considered appropriate within or claimed by each discipline.

While the racist version of nationalism was the leading paradigm for physical anthropology in the 1930s, it started to decline by the 1940s. Curiously, since the late 1940s, “ethnology” in Turkey, used in the modern sense, developed from the physical branch of anthropology; it meant, again, a comparative study of cultures. This was the beginning of several disciplinary truces among anthropology, folklore and ethnology. The 1950s marked the loosening of ties to continental physical anthropology, mainly the French and German traditions, and a decline in the racist paradigm. By this time, anthropology in Turkey gained a broader sociocultural meaning and was geared towards the British functionalist school, while also leaning on theories of culture from Britain, the United States and France (Birkalan-Gedik 2013). On the other hand, nationalism remained the main source of folklore, as its scholars turned to philological texts, collecting and publishing them. Actually, nationalism has not lost its effect on folklore and anthropology until the present.

Within BEROSE Encyclopedia, the theme of Anthropological Horizons, Histories of Ethnology and Folklore in Turkey is taken in its widest sense and suggests working within an “anthropological landscape” that encompasses anthropology, folklore, ethnography and ethnology. Certainly, these are different terms with different genealogies and sources, which have been effectively used and contested in this landscape. Furthermore, the Turkish case calls for detailed analyses that go beyond the dichotomy of “national” versus “imperial” anthropologies (Stocking 1982). The deductive categorization of “great” or “major” anthropological traditions have been complicated by bringing a distinct focus to a “peripheral”, albeit dynamic, anthropological tradition wherein the anthropological landscape and an emergent nation-state were mutually constructed after the decline of the empire.

Our themes
- Ethnographers and anthropologists: scholars, amateurs, missionaries, learned individuals, and collectors; intellectuals who are historically tied to anthropology.
- Anthropological institutions and journals; e.g. ethnographic museums, scholarly societies, learned societies, scientific bodies, universities, and institutions of higher education; scientific meetings, conferences.
- Anthropological traditions, themes, concepts and oeuvres.

Hande Birkalan-Gedik
Abdurrahim Ozmen

See also Birkalan-Gedik, Hande, 2019. “A Century of Turkish Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (v. 1850s-1950s)” , in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.


Networks, Journals and Learned Societies in France and Europe (1870-1920)

  • Directed by Claudie Voisenat (Ministère de la Culture, Héritages) and Jean-Christophe Monferran (CNRS, Héritages)

Alfonsina Bellio (EPHE)
Maria Beatrice Di Brizio (Laboratoire d’anthropologie sociale, Paris)
Claudine Gauthier (IIAC-LAHIC, Université de Bordeaux)
Mercedes Gómez-García Plata (CREC – Sorbonne Nouvelle)
David Hopkin (Hertford College / Faculty of History, University of Oxford)
João Leal (Universidade NOVA de Lisboa)
Fañch Postic (CRBC, CNRS,rest)

The invention of Folk Art (1840-1857)

  • Directed by Michela Lo Feudo (Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II)

History of Ethnomusicology

  • Directed by François Gasnault ((Ministère de la Culture, Paris) and Marie-Barbara Le Gonidec (Ministère de la Culture, Héritages)

History of the Relationship between Law and Anthropology

  • Directed by Frédéric Audren (CNRS - CEE / École de droit de Sciences Po) and Laetitia Guerlain (Université de Bordeaux, IRM-CAHD et CAK)

The research theme “history of the relationship between law and anthropology” of BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology aims to capture the normative aspects of culture from a historical perspective. Linking law and anthropology in this way is not easy, as the relationships between these two branches of knowledge are complex and difficult. Indeed, anthropology has been built on a relationship which is distanced from Western categories of law, but also rejects the idea of the autonomy of law in relation to other social sectors. In this respect, “law”, at least as a lawyer might understand it, is mostly absent from the work of anthropologists: it may be a question of kinship, filiation, property, power or rites (categories familiar to lawyers), but the concept of “law”, its cohort of rules and the structuring of these into legal systems and orders are mostly, almost systematically, absent from this production of anthropology, even the social and cultural anthropology. Beyond national differences but also geographical areas, anthropology traditionally challenges the evidence of a particular legal tradition.

On the other hand, the law, particularly in the Western civil law tradition, which originated in Roman law, seeks to enact, interpret and apply a set of normative texts. In this normative space, the work of the lawyer is thought of independently of any cultural, social or economic consideration. This does not mean, of course, that the law does not have cultural, social or economic implications, but the “good” lawyer does not need to make a detour through anthropology or sociology in his work or training in order to carry out the operations of the law correctly. There is no need for a finer and more acute knowledge of society, its specificities and needs in order to (properly) state the law. In an exemplary way, many law faculties in Europe (and particularly in France), heirs of a legalistic tradition, have never shown any particular interest in the sociological and anthropological disciplines, which they have tried to keep outside their walls.

Would the relationship between law and anthropology be condemned to oscillate between misunderstanding and indifference? It is true that many lawyers have resolved this issue by denying it has any interest: anthropology, its questions and methods have little dignity in their eyes and have never been able to influence their world views and professional practice. Anthropologists, for their part, could not completely avoid the normative dimension of social life, even though the latter seemed to ignore any isolable legal entity or any body of sanctioned rules. They therefore had to find solutions to think about law in society in social groups that, precisely, do not understand the concept of “law”. Some have thus refused to talk about law and have proposed a theory of the social that no longer distinguishes between politics, law and religion. Others reserve this concept of law for societies with a constraint system. A third faction does not separate the social and the legal and absorbs the rule of law into the social rule. Finally, some consider as law anything that produces the same effects as law. Anthropologists have many strategies to face this difficult irreducibility of law to social relations.

However, some authors, anthropologists and lawyers would lay the foundations of a legal anthropology or seek to develop it, a field of research that would take place alongside cultural anthropology, political anthropology or economic anthropology. Based on the work of Henry Sumner Maine (1822-1888), this perspective was a real success in the Anglo-Saxon world, thanks to the fathers of the “prodigious decade” (A.-L. Kroeber) of anthropology, who closely linked law and anthropology, as did Lewis Morgan, John McLennan and Johann-Jacob Bachofen for the Germanic world. Such a perspective, however, remains more modest in other countries such as France, despite the efforts of some Durkheimians (Marcel Mauss, in particular). The question of the anthropology of lawyers cannot be reduced to the mere institutionalization of a specific discipline within law schools. Even if this discipline does not yet exist or, conversely, collapses, lawyers continue to bring many anthropological arguments to bear in their practices or intellectual edifices. The question of man constantly reappears, in the speech of lawyers by indirect means, through the categories of law: natural law, human rights, custom, etc.

The BEROSE research theme “history of the relationship between law and anthropology” therefore aims to shed light on the way in which Western lawyers, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (and even, undoubtedly, previously), sought to conduct ethnographic investigations, put customary law in writing, discover the cultural substrate hidden under the formal rules of law, feed their intellectual edifices with anthropological publications and develop their own concepts of legal anthropology. These different approaches are most often carried out outside academic institutions. The role of colonial administrators is well known. But, more generally, legal experts (lawyers, magistrates, professors) have not hesitated to engage in observational work to report some conclusions on institutions and normative provisions in other societies. Drawing on the networks and environments of both physical and social anthropology, these lawyers make a significant contribution not only to legal anthropology, but also to general anthropology. This means that a number of lawyers, over the past two centuries, have explicitly perceived this link between law and anthropology and have directly addressed the anthropological question in the course of their research.

The BEROSE research theme “history of the relationship between law and anthropology” intends to open an investigation into this process of the emergence of an anthropology of law in all its historical depth, by proposing three types of entries:

a) entries concerning ethnographers, ethnologists or legal anthropologists, in the broadest sense. They may be scholars, scientists, colonial administrators who wished to write customs in a colonial context, law professors, etc. (Henri Labouret, René Maunier, Jean Poirier, Michel Alliot, Jacques Flach, etc.) ;
b) entries concerning institutions and journals related to the anthropology of law, such as learned societies, congresses, schools, companies, etc. (Coutumiers juridiques de l’Afrique occidentale française de 1939; collection “Études de sociologie et d’ethnologie juridiques” founded by René Maunier; Centre d’histoire et d’ethnologie juridiques de l’université de Bruxelles; Laboratoire d’anthropologie juridique de Paris; Association internationale de droit africain; journal Nomos. Cahiers d’ethnologie et de sociologie juridique (1974), etc.) ;
c) entries related to themes, concepts and traditions in legal anthropology (legal pluralism, legal evolutionism, primitive communism, customary law, etc.).

Frédéric Audren,
Laetitia Guerlain

History of Anthropologies, Ethnologies and Ethnographies in Hungary, 17th-20th centuries

  • Directed by Ildikó Sz. Kristóf (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

Transnational Circulations and Social Uses of Anthropological Knowledge in the Americas

  • Directed by Thomas Grillot (CNRS) and Sara Le Menestrel (CNRS)

This research theme explores the making of anthropological knowledge by focusing on its circulation within and outside the academic sphere. Born from a reflection developed within the research centre Mondes américains (UMR 8130, EHESS/CNRS), it fosters a pan-American approach. The aim is to account for the interactions, negotiations, reinterpretations, and rivalries of the various social actors involved in the making of knowledge and its uses in and beyond academic anthropology. To evoke ‘anthropological knowledge’ is to propose following the circulation of concepts and theories about humankind, as well as questionnaires and methods. This circulation takes place within academic anthropology and its disciplinary subfields, namely cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, linguistics, and archaeology, but also between anthropology and other sciences, from medicine to psychology, from ethnobotany to sociology. It encompasses non-academic spheres, for example museums, the general press, and NGOs. We intend to examine the appropriations of which anthropology has been the object, but also the ways in which the discipline has been constituted in the confrontation with vernacular knowledge, practical knowledge, and knowledge rooted in rival or divergent theoretical approaches.

This plural approach is justified by the founding heterogeneity of the discipline, as well as by the early and varied application of anthropology in American societies. Whatever its institutional import in the different countries, anthropology has considered the specificity of indigenous populations, but also of urban societies born of the colonisation of the continent. Therefore, it has served extremely varied projects: strengthening nation-building, supporting the development of collective rights specific to certain groups, legitimising minority or deviant practices, etc. Our theme is thus oriented towards various social situations ranging from education to religious proselytism, from developmental humanitarian expertise to the preservation of tangible or intangible cultural heritage, from indigenist activism to the fight against poverty. The aim is to identify the actors and networks that contribute to the production of anthropological knowledge and to examine the way in which they are mobilised. The study of the role played by experts from the USA in both North and South America is an important starting point, inseparable from the attention that should be given to the circulation of different kinds of groups (economic migrants, students, economic and intellectual elites) between the north and the south of the American continent, but also within Spanish-speaking or Latin America: the Andes and the Amazon, the Caribbean and the US-Mexican border.

Our interests include the uses of anthropological knowledge by official authorities as a tool for validation and legitimisation of public policies, the contrasting political trends of ‘public’ or ‘applied’ anthropology, and the impact of anthropological concepts and paradigms on ethnic and other identity claims.

The articles published in the framework of this research theme focus on institutions that have played a pivotal role in the circulation of anthropological knowledge in the Americas, as places of encounter and exchange between teachers, missionaries, activists, scholars and the general public. Universities, museums, festivals, private foundations, national programmes for the collection and promotion of folklore, training centres, learned societies, universal exhibitions, anthropological expeditions, development companies and networks of scientific sociability can all be studied as drivers of this kind of circulation. We note, for example, the decisive role played by the American Wenner-Gren, Melon and Rockefeller foundations in the development of the discipline, in the transnational circulation of paradigms, and in the legitimisation of researchers and students through the funding allocated. We will also look at short-term events contributing to the transmission of knowledge: intensive courses, workshops, seminars, meetings, training camps, religious assemblies and summer schools are places where disparate activities coexist, such as artistic and therapeutic practices, spiritual and bodily experiences, anthropological and psychological reflections. These encounters allow participants to share bibliographical references, an overarching rhetoric and even the names of influential figures in the history of anthropological thought, all of which contribute to the development of a common language and the circulation of a specific form of knowledge.

Our approach makes it possible to highlight the importance of particular venues as fundamental meeting places, (for example, the Esalen Institute in California), of missionary institutions as global enterprises (for example, the Summer Institute of Linguistics), and of certain research sites (such as the Vicos hacienda, which was taken over by Cornell University in the 1960s and 1970s) as favouring the combination of applied anthropology with the training of doctoral students and experts in development.

The research theme is also focused on individual trajectories and pathways (or groups of individuals whose trajectories intersect). This is a particularly fruitful methodological tool in the situational perspective adopted here, as it offers the possibility of following the involvement of certain individuals in several spheres of social life, avoiding confining them to a specific role or context. It makes it possible to follow their paths and to distinguish the variety of ‘social roles’ that individuals take on in the course of their lives, as scholars, experts, activists or practitioners. We are interested in the conjunction of these various roles, in the ways in which different statuses influence the position assigned or refused to these actors in the endorsement or marginalisation of their praxis according to the contexts taken into account (academic, political, religious, etc.).

These crossings allow us to better grasp the opportunities and constraints at play in the production of anthropological knowledge in the Americas. This approach concerns both influential anthropologists who founded departments and sub-disciplines (for example, John Murra, who played a key role in the creation of Latin American Studies) and lesser-known figures with no academic ties, such as the Brazilian indigenous evangelical pastor Henrique Terena, leader of the Conselho Nacional de Pastores e Líderes Evangélicos Indígenas, at the forefront of a synthesis of evangelical Christianity and the defence of indigenous rights in Amazonia. Entries that cross-reference the itineraries of actors from different countries (e.g. schoolteachers deploying both folkloric expertise and environmental activism) also fit perfectly into our interests.

Thomas Grillot (CNRS)
Sara Le Menestrel (CNRS)