Abstract

SUMMARY:

This is a Russian translation of one chapter from the book in progress by Alice L. Conklin (the preliminary title of the book is From Race to Culture? Science, Ethnography, and Empire in France, 1920–1950). Conklin opens the chapter with a set of questions: Was anthropology, which emerged as a professional science in France during the interwar years – that is to say, at the high noon of the French empire – a “colonial science?” And what exactly is “colonial science”? While sharing historiographic premises about the instrumentality of science in a French colonial setting, she seeks to clarify certain metropolitan tensions that help to explain anthropology’s “germination on the fertile ground of imperial domination” in the 1930s. In the translated chapter, the author explores one aspect of this complex relationship with respect to a cohort of left-leaning anthropologists in interwar France who sought to use the empire to establish ethnologie as a university-based discipline premised for the first time on scientific fieldwork. While Marcel Mauss was a key figure in this initiative, the physical anthropologist Paul Rivet, and the students of both Mauss and Rivet, were equally critical to the effort. The professional knowledge that these men and women produced was in many ways ambiguous when it came to constituting power in a colonial setting. On the one hand, these new ethnologists quite openly sought to become “colonial” – that is, to develop an overseas practice and legitimation of their discipline in the 1920s and 1930s, in part because other scientists were blocking their path in France. On the other hand, they made clear that their science should not directly serve the needs of empire, even as they turned to the overseas territories to underwrite and frame their new ethnographic ideas and practices. The ambivalent colonial vocation of this group suggests that not only were imperial forms of knowledge less monolithic overseas, but they were also less marginal to intellectual life in France than historians of anthropology and colonialism have implicitly presumed. The author concludes that in its quest for professional legitimacy, interwar French ethnology was indeed a “colonial science.” As such, however, it was ultimately as unstable in its forms of knowledge as the empire that helped to “produce and enable” it.

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Additional Information

ISSN
2164-9731
Print ISSN
2166-4072
Pages
pp. 19-62
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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