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A French place without a cheese

Problems with heritage and identity in northeastern France

Paola Filippucci

In France, the classic produit du terroir, the local product that with its mix of skill and raw materials embodies the distinctive tie between people and their terroir (soil), is cheese. Thus, when inhabitants of the Argonne say that it “does not even have a cheese”, they imply that it lacks a patrimoine (cultural heritage). On the other hand, they do make passionate claims about 'being Argonnais', conveying a marked recognition of, and attachment to, a named place in relation to which they identify themselves and others. Focusing on this paradox, this article will highlight certain assumptions regarding the definition of cultural heritage found in public policy.

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The Veil and Muslim Women in France

Religious and Political Aspects

Aref Abu-Rabia

The right of Muslim schoolgirls in France to wear the veil (hijab) raises questions concerning the meaning of the veil for Muslim women. The debate about Muslim dress codes and whether Islam belongs in Europe has become a critical issue. The debate that began about the veil in Islam has evolved into a large discussion about Islam itself: as a religion, the Islamic movement in France and the relationship between Islam and fundamentalism. The purpose of this article is to examine some definitions of the hijab and its meaning in the context of the Qur’an, and to analyse some of the understandings of the hijab, as articulated in the late twentieth century by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars. It also explores the nature of Muslim reactions in France as well as their tensions with the surrounding society, as a result of the French ban on wearing the veil in public schools.

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The Anthropology of Literature in France

Birth and Becoming of a New Field of Studies

Laurent Sebastian Fournier and Jean-Marie Privat

In this article we present the ongoing theoretical discussions concerning the relations between anthropology and literature in France. We recall the historical relationship of a part of French anthropology and the world of literature. We then try to show how the anthropology of literature began by using the model of the anthropology of art, mainly concentrating on literary works as individual creations specific to the style or the cosmology of a given writer. We explore a new perspective on the analysis of the social and symbolic meanings of literary worlds, putting the emphasis on what is called ‘ethnocriticism’ in France. In order to understand better the influence of literature and literary motives on contemporary cultural practices, and to grasp the relation of literary works with the outside world and with everyday life, we propose to build up a comparative approach of literary works and rituals. Through different novels or other literary works, we address possible developments of contemporary anthropologies of literature in France.

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Cartographies of Communicability and the Anthropological Archive

Civil War Executions and the Harvard Irish Study

Brigittine French

This article traces ideological constructions of communication that enable powerful actors to determine what counts as silences, lies and surpluses in efficacious narratives about violence (Briggs 2007) in order to elucidate occlusions regarding legacies of the Civil War in the Irish Free State. It does so through a precise triangulation of multiple competing and overlapping narratives from unpublished fieldnotes, interviews, published ethnographies and other first-person accounts. The inquiry highlights social memories of the Irish Civil War that have been 'assumed, distorted, misunderstood, manipulated, underestimated, but most of all, ignored' (Dolan 2003: 2). The article argues that the excesses of the anthropological archive make the recuperation of a multiplicity of collective memories possible through a linguistic anthropological perspective that enumerates the kind of erasures at play in contentious memory-making moments, highlights polyvocality in metapragmatic discourse and tracks the gaps in entextualisation processes of historical narratives about political turmoil.

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Marc Abélès

What is anthropology in France about, what is its image, its impact? Where do we come from? Where are we going? Finding answers to these questions would require a whole book. However, in a more modest way, I would like to make a number of observations related to the recent history of the discipline – history that, as we shall see, is inseparable from the general socio-political context and the place that the discipline occupies today in the French intellectual landscape.

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'0 Feet Away'

The Queer Cartography of French Gay Men's Geo-social Media Use

Dominique Pierre Batiste

Why do gay men utilise geo-social media applications such as Grindr and Scruff? Social media scholarship describes technological mediations and changes to social space and communities; however, there are theoretical gaps concerning what geo-social technology means for gay men. I suggest that gay men's ability to see other gay men, via geo-social media, reveals the queer cartography of any geographical location. This re-mapping of social space proves the public sphere less heteronormative than purported, cultivates community between gay men who may initiate face-to-face contact utilising geo-locative technology, and allows gay men to interact with one another outside of specifically gay spaces. This research is based in Toulouse, France, and adds to scholarship concerning French gay men's resistance to heteronormativity. This research also holds global significance concerning subjugated communities' uses of geo-social technology in their resistance against dominant cultures.

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Rheumatic Irony

Questions of Agency and Self-deception as Refracted through the Art of Living with Spirits

Michael Lambek

The story of a young man from the Western Indian Ocean island of Mayotte who was prevented from a career in the French army by an illness sent by a spirit who possesses his mother inspires reflection on the nature of agency. I suggest that spirit possession and the ill- nesses it produces are intrinsically ironic. The prevalence of irony implies not that we should disregard agency but that perhaps we should not take it too literally.

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The State, Legal Rigor, and the Poor

The Daily Practice of Welfare Control

Vincent Dubois

This article focuses on the means by which the state controls welfare recipients in France. The paradox of these actions, which are made in the name of legal rigor but are characterized by ambivalence and the discretionary power of grassroots agents, reveals the broader functioning of a government over the poor. These actions are based on the combination of a multitude of individual relationships, which, although unevenly coordinated, derive from the structural rationale of the post-welfare era. Individualization and uncertainty signal not so much a disaggregation of the state as a consistent mode of governance in which discretion and leeway accorded to street-level bureaucrats are necessary for the state to exert power over citizens' behaviors.

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Gwyn Williams

This paper explores the rights-based cosmopolitanism of French anti-GM activists and their challenge to the neoliberal cosmopolitanism of the World Trade Organization and multinational corporations. Activists argue that genetic modification, patents, and WTO-brokered free trade agreements are the means by which multinationals deny people fundamental rights and seek to dominate global agriculture. Through forms of protest, which include cutting down field trials of genetically modified crops, activists resist this agenda of domination and champion the rights of farmers and nations to opt out of the global agricultural model promoted by biotechnology companies. In so doing, they defend the local. This defense, however, is based on a cosmopolitan discourse of fundamental rights and the common good. I argue that activists' cosmopolitan perspective does not transcend the local but is intimately related to a particular understanding of it.

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The State of French Sociology through American Eyes

Minutes of the Society for Social Research, February 6, 1933

Herbert Blumer

The Society for Social Research held its regular meeting on the evening of 6 February, President Stuart Rice in the chair.

Mr. Herbert Blumer of the Department of Sociology, University of Chicago spoke to the group on ‘Some Impressions of Contemporary French Sociology’. The following is a digest of his paper.