Colloque « Savoirs et savoir-faire en situation : les sciences humaines et sociales et le monde / Knowledge and Know-How Situated: Humanities and Social Sciences and the World », EHESS — Campus Condorcet Aubervilliers, 8-10 novembre 2022

Colloque organisé par l’EHESS en coopération avec les dix autres établissements du Campus Condorcet et avec le soutien additionnel du GIS Asie, GIS Moyen-Orient et Mondes musulmans, UMR 7308 – CREDO, UMR 7227 – CREDA, UMR 8032 – CETOBAC, UMR 8036 –CESPRA, UMR 8083 – CERCEC, UMR 8131 – Centre Georg Simmel, UMR 8155-CRCAO, UMR 8156 – IRIS, UMR 8168-Mondes Américains, Centre d’études nord-américaines, UMR 8171 – IMAF, UMR 8170 – CASE, UMR 8173 – Chine-Corée-Japon, UMR 8558 – CRH, UMR 8560 – CAK, UMR 8566 – CRAL,  UMR 8563-CRLAO, UMR 8564 – CEIAS, UAR 2500 – IISMM.

8-9-10 novembre 2022
Auditorium 150, Centre de colloques, Campus Condorcet, Aubervilliers

Colloque en anglais, ci-dessous l’argumentaire général en différentes langues : Version française 中文版本 Versión en español Русская версия النسخة العربية 

Colloque’s presentation
Steering Committee
Colloque’s program



Colloque’s presentation :

Located just north of Paris in Aubervilliers, the Campus Condorcet is a new hub for social sciences and the humanities. Organized around a major library, it brings together eleven institutions of higher education and research with about 100 of their research units. It is also unique for gathering researchers working on the whole world from a wide array of epistemological and disciplinary perspectives. Area and global studies are among the research fields best suited to strengthening existing collaborations within the Campus and fostering renewed international exchange with colleagues from all continents and disciplines.

In our view, area studies should not just refer to research on non-European societies.  We consider Europe as a “cultural area” in its own right, or at least as a historically constructed region. We also believe that the issue of how the world –both in its unity and diversity– should be investigated cannot be the exclusive domain of research of those colleagues who identify themselves with the field of area studies, but also regards scholars who exclusively define their work in terms of one or more disciplines. Research is always doubly situated: on the one hand, in the contexts where it is produced, the academic circles where it circulates and the socio-political arenas where it conveys meaning; on the other hand, it is also situated in relation to the empirical objects studied and the investigations conducted, although they might not fall within the scope of the so-called area studies approach (i.e. grounded in thick contextualization).

Replacing or combining with other paradigms presiding over the holistic scientific understanding of the world (universal histories, orientalism or colonial ethnology), area studies emerged after the Second World War, albeit at different times in North America, Europe, and the rest of the world. Over the last three decades, this field has undergone major transformations following the rise of global studies in the wake of the globalization of economic and financial markets as well as the postcolonial critique, the internationalization of research encouraged by the boom in air traffic and the internet, and the emergence of important new centers of knowledge production in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. All these developments have challenged the very foundations of area studies. These challenges remain and have been accentuated by new, urgent ones. The Covid pandemic, as well as conflicts and wars in Ethiopia, Mali, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen –unfortunately, a far from exhaustive list– have undermined the possibility of conducting fieldwork and accessing archives.  These crises have underlined the precarious nature of some area-based fields of specialization. Hence, it is a pressing and crucial matter to reconsider the issues at stake in and the conceptual foundations of area studies.

Instead of ensconcing ourselves in our own epistemological traditions, we propose to reflect on how the various disciplines of the humanities and social sciences –wherever in the world they are produced and to whichever epistemological legacies they belong– study, both independently and collectively, the world as a whole and in its diversity, not just its non-European societies. Beyond the individual researchers’ positioning in relation to their research objects and areas of specialization and the circulation between academic circles, we must also take account of the different disciplinary histories and the divergent ways they have sought to apprehend the world. 

By exploring the various ways the humanities and social sciences in different academic settings have approached the world, this conference aims to intervene in the ongoing debates on the parameters and paradigms of area studies and the disciplines alike. While bolstering the scientific construction of Campus Condorcet from below, it intends to contribute to building a plural and multi-situated knowledge of the world. 



Steering Committee :

  • Chloé Andrieu, CNRS, ArchAm, member of the scientific committee of IDA
  • Caroline Bodolec, CNRS, CCJ/CECMC, scientific adjunct director of InSHS
  • Capucine Boidin, Université Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3, IHEAL/CREDA
  • Grégory Delaplace, EPHE-PSL, GSRL, member of the scientific committee of GIS Asie
  • Alain Delissen, EHESS, CCJ/CRC
  • Geetha Ganapathy-Doré, Université Sorbonne Paris-Nord, IDPS
  • Stéphane Dufoix, Université Paris Nanterre, SSA, Sophiapol
  • Géraldine Duthé, INED, DEMOSUD
  • Eloi Ficquet, EHESS, CESOR
  • Matthias Hayek, EPHE, CRCAO
  • Thomas Maissen, Institut historique allemand, member of the scientific committee of FMSH
  • Didier Nativel, Université Paris Cité, CESSMA, member of the scientific committee of GIS Afrique
  • Judith Rainhorn, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, CHS
  • Antonella Romano, EHESS, CAK
  • Yves Sintomer, Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, CRESPPA
  • Joelle Vailly, CNRS, IRIS
  • Edouard Vasseur, ENC
  • Cécile Vidal, EHESS, Mondes Américains/CENA
  • Mercedes Volait, CNRS, InVisu, member of the scientific committee of GIS Moyen-Orient et mondes musulmans




Colloque’s program :


  • November 8, 2022

10h00 am-11h30 am: Official opening by Pierre-Paul Zalio, EPCC, Marie Gaille, InSHS, Christophe Prochasson, EHESS, and Aurélie Varrel, Unité support études aréales et GIS Asie, and scientific introduction by Alain Delissen, EHESS, CCJ/CRC, Eloi Ficquet, EHESS, CESOR, Antonella Romano, EHESS, CAK, et Cécile Vidal, EHESS, Mondes Américains/CENA.

11h30 am-12h30 am: Keynote lecture

Chair: Eloi Ficquet, EHESS, CESOR

Teresa Cruz e Silva, Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (Maputo, Mozambique): “Sovereignty and Epistemic Freedom in the Production of Knowledge: Interrogating the Social Sciences from Africa:”

The starting point for this reflection is the production of situated knowledges in the political contexts of the African continent. Exploring some theoretical and methodological challenges faced by social sciences’ researchers in their research practices, we intend to bring to debate, both, the existing material conditions and, their influences on the production of knowledge and its recognition, as well as the epistemological possibilities and alternatives that are being drawn from and to the global South, in general and, particularly from the experience of Africa. Among other challenges we can’t ignore: i) the possibility of controlling the production of Afrocentric knowledge and ii) the forms of construction of South-South bridges, a way to establish a dialogue with the world. To achieve these objectives, we started from a research experience focused on specific examples from Southern Africa over the last 40 years or so. This set of questions, more than they would be more definitive answers, are fundamental points to build alternative paths for the future of Social Sciences from the Self.

12h30 am-02h00 pm: Lunch

02h00 pm-03h45 pm: Delimiting, Naming, Instituting

The notion of “cultural area,” which is at the core of area studies, refers simultaneously to areas of specialization which are also research objects, fields of knowledge, and institutions geared towards education and research. It has been widely criticized for the serious risk of culturalism it fosters. Yet the lack of reflection on the spatial imaginary that the notion of “cultural area” conveys ought also to be taken into consideration. This session, therefore, will analyze the strains caused, on the one hand, by the practical necessity of subdividing knowledge of the world in order to delimit, organize and classify educational and research institutions, and, on the other hand, the failure of the notion of “cultural area” to accurately account for spatial discontinuities and differences. It will also interrogate the relevance of the various meta-geographical ensembles thus constituted –visible in the labeling and internal structuring of laboratories, research programs, departments, journals, library shelves, international conferences, etc. Beyond the institutions’ self-representations, we will pay attention to the linguistic markers that seek to translate the differentiations and connections at work in the supposedly coherent societies gathered under the same umbrella term. These include inverted commas, plural marks, the use of synonyms or foreign languages terminology. Graphic or visual languages (logos, web graphics) may be examined as well.

Chair: Grégory Delaplace, EPHE-PSL, GSRL

Franck Mermier, CNRS, IRIS: “From ‘Arab World’ to ‘Arab Space’: The Tribulations of a ‘Culture Area’ Notion in the Socio-anthropological Field:”

The political context and the ideological conceptions of pan-Arab inspiration contained in expressions such as “Arab nation,” “Arab homeland” or “Arab society,” have influenced certain directions of research aiming at isolating a hard core of Arab identity. Some features considered specific to the Arab region, whether they emanate from its ethnic and religious pluralism or from its forms of social and political organization, have thus given rise to attempts at global explanation, from the “mosaic” model that appeared in the 1950s to the anthropology of “Arab-Majority societies,” via “Arab marriage” and “neo-patriarchy.” The expansion of research into new areas of the Arab space, whether in urban societies, in the Gulf countries or in the territories of exile, has led to a diversification and decompartmentalization of themes and theoretical approaches. My presentation will focus on the heuristic scope of the research that has developed on this region, whether within the area studies or the social sciences in general, as well as on the concomitant changes in the names and definitions of the Arab region.

Clémence Léobal, CNRS, LAVUE, Laboratoire Mosaïques: “Doing Social Sciences in French Guiana, a Place out of the Framework of Areas Studies:”

This paper is a reflection on my research experience in urban sociology in French Guiana, carried out within Parisian universities. Within social sciences, this French département in South America escapes both Latin American studies, which are largely Spanish-speaking, and Caribbean studies, which are not well developed in France. Research on French Guiana as on other parts of the former colonial empire, that remain under French control, officially called “Overseas territories” (Outre-mer), is carried out in local university departments or in research centers in Europe or North America (or even Brazil). It is difficult to establish a dialogue between these works, notably because of the variety of regions in which these territories are located (continental America, the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean, Oceania). Academics from other disciplines (in ecology, for example) who work on French Guiana refer more readily to Amazonia to the point of frequently making the keyword French Guiana disappear from publications. However, it seems unthinkable in social sciences to make the land and its specificities as a French territory disappear. This is why I have chosen to insert my work in academic networks on “Overseas territories.” In France, this field is not very well structured and is deprived of a journal or a research unit, but operates through thematic research projects and seminars.

Filippo Ronconi, EHESS, CESOR: “Byzantine Studies between Disciplinary Fields and Cultural Areas:”

Byzantine studies represent an exemplary case of a research object which is both a disciplinary and an academic field and that is often regarded as the expression of a unitary cultural area, albeit marked by a strong internal dialectic. Nevertheless, the extreme spatial fluctuation of the empire and the development of research relating to byzantine regions characterized by strong local cultures have progressively challenged the epistemological foundations of the very idea of a ‘Byzantine Empire’. The paper will frame the origin of Byzantine studies in the concerns of late19th-century Western Europe, assessing its appropriation by some of the major academic traditions of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Marie Carmagnolle, EFEO-EHESS, CECMC- CCJ: “Cultural Invisible Continuity of Exchange Dynamics, or the Areal Classification Facing Reality: The History of a Tantric Cult between India and China.”

Commentator: Emmanuelle Vagnon, CNRS, LAMOP
Commentator: Jean-Marc Besse, CNRS/EHESS, Géographie-cités 

03h45 pm-04h15 pm: Break

04h15 pm-06h00 pm: The Scales of Analysis 

The issue of the spatial divisions adopted by the humanities and social sciences is by no means new, even though it has received less attention than that of temporal divisions. However, this spatial dimension has generally been neglected, both because these spatial divisions are ingrained in the traditions of area studies and because the disciplines ignore the spatiality of the phenomena they study. Moreover, scholars still too often use concepts, categories and experiences related to space originating in Western traditions and do not pay enough attention to alternative ways of conceiving of the relationships between societies and their environments. Yet, there now exists a rich and varied reflection on the issue of scales of analysis, from the dual perspective of the construction of research objects and of observable findings. More particularly, this session will consider “Europe” in its multiple historical manifestations as an object of area studies in its own right. It will also explore how scale variations, including the use of the global scale (in its plural conceptions in the humanities and social sciences), could open a new, critical perspective to area-based approaches. Finally, the session will highlight the variety – rooted in the diversity of the world’s regions and languages– of the conceptions and categories of spatialization, as well as the linguistic issues linked to their commensurability.

Chair: Yves Sintomer, Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis, CRESPPA 

Kiran Patel, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Munich): “Fine Scaling Europe: Transnational History and Beyond:”

This presentation discusses the need for more fine-grained scales when analyzing European history. It focuses on the spatial dimension of transnational processes and argues that a more elaborate understanding of space has the potential to open up a whole new field of enquiry. In doing so, it seeks to pay greater attention to the physical dimension of transnational spaces and their scale variations. Moreover, the paper distinguishes analytically between different kinds of transnational spaces and underscores the heuristic potential of delineating and comparing their respective contours. 

Sabine Planel, IRD, IMAF: “Scaling up or Generalizing? Empirical and Analytical Values of Scales from Theoretical Reflections and Analyses Grounded in Southern Ethiopia:”

Combining C. Lund (2014) reflection on analytical movements in qualitative social sciences and N. Brenner (2001) notion of scalar structuration processes, this presentation focusses on both empirical and analytical generalization movements. Whereas the notion of scalar structuration processes resorts to describe and understand actual realities, this paper considers scalar dynamics as analytical movements. Borrowing to the notion’s density, it specifically attempts to consider scalar benefits in generalization movements, peculiarly those rendering the heterogeneity and specificity of local situations while going beyond local levels perspectives. When necessary, for the sake of clarity not to restrict the demonstration on a theoretical ground, ethno-national mobilizations in (Southern) Ethiopia will be considered as a case study.

Marie-Sybille de Vienne, INALCO, CASE: Reconstructing Southeast Asia: Crossing Disciplines and Bridging Gaps or the Blind Men and the Elephant:”

For scholars such as Thomas Pepinsky (2016), “The first principle of Southeast Asian Studies is the very artificiality of the concept of ‘Southeast Asia’”— a position which took form in 1945. Whether from an ethnic, religious, political or economic point of view, contemporary Southeast Asia appears a highly heterogeneous region indeed. More, the ‘artificiality’ of Southeast Asia would be corroborated by the recent use (World War Two) of the term itself. However, this approach remains largely superficial, as previously illustrated (among others) by researchers such as Jean Przyluski, Denys Lombard or Anthony Reid. The term ‘Southeast Asia’ appeared much earlier than the 20th century, in 1826 (in Andreas von Merian’s Synglosse: oder Grundsätze der Sprachforschung), at the crossroad of two new disciplines, ethnology and linguistics. It implied that the region represented more than a mere extension of India beyond the gulf of Bengal (conversely to previous terminology Further India, Transgangetic India, East Indies…)  —a statement comforted by the use of the Persian term Zirbadad (the land below the wind’) since the 17th century (cf. The Ship of Sulaiman) including in some Western cartography. The application of a few basic disciplines of social sciences (such as physical geography, history, archaeology, ethnology, literature) to the so-called ‘Southeast Asia’ progressively reveals the structuration as well as the delimitation and margins of a specific cultural area, thus preventing observers from acting as in the parable of the blind men and the elephant  (Udana VI.4, Tittha Sutta), in which each of the blindmen grasped a part of the beast, ignoring thus the very existence of the elephant as a whole.


Presentation of two graduate students’ posters: 
Seyni Alice Gueye, EHESS, Mondes Américains/CRBC-CAK: “Rethinking the Uses of Scales in 16th-17th Centuries America: The Spaces of Governmental Practices in the Spanish Monarchy.”  
Andrea Umberto Gritti, EHESS, CETOBAC – Institut Convergences Migrations: “The Workers’ Perspective: Introducing Scales in the Study of the Ottoman Railways.”

Commentator: Pascale Goetschel, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, CHS
Commentator: Antoine Vauchez, CNRS, CESSP

06h00 pm-06h15 pm: Break

06h15 pm-07h15 pm: Keynote lecture

Chair: Cécile Vidal, EHESS, Mondes Américains/CENA

Luiz Costa Lima, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro: “Mímesis: The Long Way of a Short Life:”

Focusing on the Greek category of mimesis, central since my first book published in 1980, I offer a renewed reading of its traditional interpretation as the equivalent of the Latin imitation. At the crossroads between cultural anthropology, philology and sociology, this reflection defines mimesis as a process of transgression of what society considers as reality. It thus suggests to approach “literature,” “painting,” and “sculpture” as fictional works whose analysis cannot be reduced to a series of “technical” procedures, as “technical” procedures are mechanically repeated. The conference will also be an excellent floor to engage the conversation among different academic and linguistic spaces.  


07h15 pm-08h30 pm: Cocktail



  • November 9, 2022

09h00 am-10h45 am: Colonial and Imperial Legacies

A collective reflection on the humanities and social sciences in their relationships to the world from a French perspective can hardly afford to ignore the long-term political and academic impact of colonization, particularly European colonization. One may thus wonder whether the world’s political transformations, beginning in the 1950s and 1960s, and the profound changes in the global scientific landscape over the past two decades, the emergence of new international actors, as well as paradigm shifts, have successfully expunged imperial and colonial pasts. In other words, what are the appropriate modalities for an effective decolonization of the humanities and social sciences? The session’s aim will not be so much as to revisit four decades of critical reflection on Eurocentrism, as to look at the actual practices of researchers engaged in countries of the Global South. Indeed, the history of many former colonies is still written from sources kept by the former colonizing powers and according to methodologies elaborated in the Western world. Projects of reciprocal anthropologies have emerged, but have remained limited if not marginal. Moreover, many North-South research teams receive funding from Western organizations and donors on the basis of norms developed in the North. However, rather than a narrow and necessarily partial diagnosis, this session aims to shed light on current experiences and research from different disciplines in the humanities and social sciences committed to charting new paths.    

Chair: Geetha Ganapathy-Doré, Université Sorbonne Paris-Nord, IDPS

Felix Ameka, Leiden University: “Reconceptualizing the Foundations of Knowledge for the Humanities and Social Sciences:”

Knowledge creation and production in the academy has been shaped over the centuries by a particular, history, culture and tradition rooted in colonialism, imperialism and missionization. It has privileged a particular worldview, the so-called Western scientific, assumed to be universal such that any mode of thinking or knowing different from it is said to be not scientific. In this talk I want to suggest that an effective way to challenge the hegemony of this worldview is to deconstruct it. This deconstruction would reveal that the academy has reified only some of the knowledge types Aristotle (techne and episteme) identified, and has ignored the type that Aristotle thought was foundational for the rest: phronesis. This knowledge type embodies ethical ways of knowing. I will then argue that we need to reconstruct knowledge systems for the humanities and social sciences by (i) reinstating and integrating phronesis in the ways of knowing; (ii) exploring through systematic study the categorization of knowledge in different lingua-cultures and socio-cultural groups and mobilizing these in the circulation of knowledge in order to develop an integrated framework for the plurality of knowledge systems in the study of humans. 

Marie Salaün, Université Paris Cité, URMIS: “No Longer Down Under? Challenging Epistemological Hegemony as a Joint Project in Oceania Today:”

The term Down Under is a colloquialism that initially referred to Australia and New Zealand as seen from England and that has somehow extended to the whole Pacific Islands countries. Oceania experienced decolonizing processes that took place later and were less successful than elsewhere. Consequently, colonial logics remain unchallenged in various and complex ways. Through four portraits of indigenous intellectuals (Epeli Hau’ofa, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, Haunani-Kay Trask, Linda Tuhiwai Smith), the paper will analyze the diversity of forms taken by the contestation of epistemological hegemony in this region of the world. From the “island oriented” history chartered by J. W. Davidson in Canberra in the 1950s to the foundation of Hawaiian and Maori Studies in the 1980s, and from the local variations of cultural studies to the focus on development studies in the peripheral universities of the young Melanesian States, when the subalterns actually speak, how far is an academic dialogue conceivable between the former colonial powers and their former possessions?

Romuald Fonkoua, Sorbonne Université, CELLF: Paper’s title and abstract not yet submitted.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Matti Leprêtre, EHESS, CERMES3/CAK: “Local Entanglements, Global Designs: Tracing the Bioprospection of Medicinal Plants in Germany, its Colonies and Beyond (1884-1945).”

Commentator: Didier Nativel, Université Paris Cité, CESSMA
Commentator: Stefania Capone, CNRS, CESOR

10h45 am-11h15 am: Break

11h15 am-01h00 pm: Positionality

Researchers in the humanities and social sciences, whose areas of specialization are regions or countries different from those in which they are based, may well be particularly prone to reflect on the effects of their positionality. This question must be tackled from a dual anthropological and sociological perspective. Regarding their research objects and areas of specialization, what has been the impact of researchers’ subjectivities and multiple identities, as well as their power-positions within academic fields, on their scholarly practices and production? Although relevant for all researchers, this issue takes on special significance when academic circles throughout the world confront one another. Admittedly, the emergence of significant new centers of knowledge production in Asia, Latin America and Africa, circulations of all sorts, and the development of collaborative and co-constructed international projects contribute to bridging the gap between insiders and outsiders within the same research focus. However, a certain international division of scientific labor still weighs on the modalities of the internationalization of research, even though the situation differs from discipline to discipline, from region to region. Consequently, what positioning are researchers adopting? 

Chair: Matthias Hayek, EPHE-PSL, CRCAO

Manjeet Ramgotra, SOAS University of London: “Positionality, Identity and Boundaries:”

What is positionality and how does it shape how we not only read the world but how we read others? The concept of positionality has become common place in the social sciences over the past couple of decades. It has the advantage of recognizing and acknowledging the multiple identities that we carry within ourselves that include the gender, race, class, ability and standing, for example. Positionality relates complex identity positions in which often demonstrates privilege and marginality but at the same time can combine these. Such as for instance a queer person of color from a middle-class background does not always share the same privileges as a heteronormative white working-class person in terms of race but has advantages in terms of class. The concept also makes us aware as researchers as to how we read phenomena through our positionality and how we may bring in various biases in our interpretations. The concept allows for more nuanced understandings of ourselves and others as well of society more generally and how these positions often shift as we move from one place to another or from one group of people to another. This paper examines the concept, its meaning and use within and across boundaries.

Élodie Apard, Les Afriques dans le Monde – IFRA-Nigeria: “Positioning, Reflexivity and Research Ethics in Sensitive Contexts: Case Studies from Nigeria:”

Whenever research deals with sensitive topics and violent or dangerous contexts, the need for clear research ethics seems to be widely acknowledged and recognized by the academic community; however, reflection on researchers’ positionality, as well as individual and collective reflexivity efforts, are not yet systematic practices. Yet, conducting fieldwork in precarious or risky contexts raises questions on the conditions of data collection and knowledge production. 

The Nigerian context, marked by restrictions and real risks for many research projects on the ground, requires a strong sense of vigilance. Security issues remain a continuous concern, given that the consequences of taking risks are not the same for researchers, research assistants and interlocutors, depending on whether they belong to an African or a European institution, they are men or women and familiar or not with the social environment in which the study takes place. 

Drawing upon examples of collective research projects conducted in Nigeria, this paper addresses the issue of compatibility between empirical requirements of social sciences research and the physical and psychological integrity of the people involved.

Rolf Elberfeld, University of Hildesheim: “Humanities in the Horizon of European Expansion: Research and Cross-cultural Critique:”

While studying philosophy in Japan over 30 years ago, I realized that modern Japanese philosophy cannot be understood without the historical context of European expansion. European expansion not only caused European philosophy to be exported to Japan, but also caused European philosophy to be criticized in Japan for its Eurocentrism. When I became acquainted with modern Latin American philosophy after my stay in Japan, I noticed that a central theme of this philosophy was the philosophical and critical analysis of European expansion as epistemic conquest. Increasingly, I realized that the development of European philosophy since 1492 could not be interpreted without the historical context of European expansion. My own position as a European philosopher was thus put in a new light. I realized that the philosophical tradition in which I had grown up was deeply enmeshed in colonial patterns of justification and epistemic exercise of power. This has led me in recent years to develop a practice of philosophy in a decolonial perspective that consists primarily in a clearing up of the colonial enmeshments of philosophy in Europe since 1492. In this sense, every philosophizing today in Europe necessarily needs the voices of cross-cultural critique.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Mayuko Yamamoto, EHESS, CESPRA: “Seeing the World in ‘Triangulation:’ Being Another ‘Other’ in the Field of Islam in Europe.”

Commentator: Géraldine Duthé, INED, DEMOSUD
Commentator: Ioulia Shukan, Université Paris Nanterre, ISP 

01h00 pm-02h30 pm: Lunch

02h30 pm-04h15 pm: Circulations and Non-Circulations

The issue of cultural, intellectual and epistemic circulations and non-circulations can be broached in a number of ways: from a material perspective (flows of books and translations, of textbooks, of funding or of institutions), from a human perspective (networks of researchers, students, experts), or from an ideational perspective (concepts, theories, references, discourses).  It can also be apprehended via the different directions those circulations pass (or not): West-West, West-East, North-North, North-South, South-North, South-South. Taking into account the diversity of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences and their variations according to academic contexts and time periods, we will examine both the conditions that allow for these circulations to take place (colonialism, relative freedom of movement and financial resources of European and North American elites, the role of major international organizations, the soft power exerted by geopolitical powers after the Second World War, linguistic domination, etc.) and the circumstances –in relation to the historical mechanisms of intellectual and scientific hegemony, as well as political and geopolitical contexts– that render alternative circulations invisible or impossible. The same dynamics that generate circulations may also produce frictions and conflicts that can hamper them. This session will strive to grasp how circulation regimes evolve when fixity and movement are both relative and interdependent.

Chair: Joëlle Vailly, CNRS, IRIS

Chowra Makaremi, CNRS, IRIS: “Counter-archives: Circulation and the Paradoxes of Hegemony:” 

How do regimes of mobility impact the multi-faceted relationship between archives and power? The circulation of people, of data, of practices of knowledge (investigative forensics, cartography, oral history projects), of registers of action (people’s tribunals, missing people databases, universal jurisdiction) challenge the relations between power and knowledge when it comes to archives – archives as sites of power, and State power as a condition of constitution and institution of archival repositories. Notably, various transnational forms of activism have the purpose or effect of producing scattered, incomplete, open, dauntless documentation that subvert or challenge knowledge and narratives constructed within nation-state borders and power politics. However, engaging in this counter-hegemonic archival resistance comes at the risk of being reshaped by standardized legal, epistemic, moral grammars and norms. The paper explores the world of, and the worlds narrated by, these counter-archives. 

Thomas Brisson, Université Paris 8 Vincennes Saint-Denis, CRESPPA-LABTOP: “Western Social Sciences and ‘Multiple Modernities:’ Global Academic Circulations, Confucianism, and Max Weber in Singapore (1970s-1980s):”

The paper tackles the academic circulations between the United-States and the rising capitalist centers of Asia in the 1970s and 1980s (mainly Singapore), as well as the ideational exchanges that took place during this process. It focuses on the academic circulations that occurred as the city-state envisioned to enhance its ‘Confucian identity’ and to promote a type of modernity alternative to the West’s. Yet, as Singapore lacked the academic resources, it had to invite academics teaching in the West to promote this anti-Western scientific and political agenda. Building on this paradox, the papers deals with North-to-South scientific exchanges and shows how they contributed to the global diffusion of Western social sciences as well as to counter-hegemonic trends. It analyzes how Western social sciences could be used to contest the very dominance of the West through one the many debates on the “multiple modernities” that took place at this time. Doing so, it highlights the central role played by Max Weber’s Sociology of religions in the global discussion on the extent to which modernity should be linked, or not, to the West.

Wiebke Keim, CNRS, SAGE: “The International Circulation of Social Sciences Scholars: An Empirical Analysis of Institutional Practices:”

This paper proposes an actor-centered approach to the study of knowledge circulation. The invitation of foreign scholars is one of the key institutional practices that account for the directions in which social scientists move within the international arena; whom they meet on their journeys; what they talk about and how they frame what they talk about, depending on where they speak and which audiences they are addressing. Their movements are also strongly affected by the prevailing disciplinary divisions. In order to empirically ground my argument, I shall develop an analysis published in 2010, based on the practice of inviting scholars from abroad to the EHESS at the beginning of the 2000s. This conference is a welcome occasion to compare those results with more recent data: have the profile and the role of invited scholars changed over the course of the past 20 years? Based on this sample, my paper outlines a potential future research project on institutional practices regarding the international circulation of social science actors on Campus Condorcet. Such a project would also aim to find out to what extent contributions from abroad change the practices of the social sciences in terms of objects, methods and disciplinary boundaries.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Gabriela Quezada, EHESS, CAK: “The Shaping of Social Sciences in Mexico (1900-1920): Circulations of People and Models beyond the National Borders.” 

Commentator: Michael Lucken, INALCO, IFRAE
Commentator:  Stéphane Dufoix, Université Paris Nanterre, SSA, Sophiapol 

04h15 pm-04h45 pm: Break

04h45 pm-05h45 pm: Keynote lecture

Chair: Antonella Romano, EHESS, CAK

Françoise Daucé, EHESS, CERCEC: “The War in Ukraine: Failure or Support for Social Sciences in Eastern Europe?”

The war in Ukraine, started by Russia on 24 February 2022, with its attendant loss of life and material destruction, is a new historical drama on European soil. From a social science perspective, this major conflict is a failure. In Russia, the rise to war was accompanied by the marginalization of critical scientific work, which was replaced by the political use of history and the control of public research. In Europe, the geopolitical stakes of the conflict encourage the use of commonplaces inherited from the past, particularly from the Cold War. But this major conflict can also be a moment of reflexivity on the epistemological and political stakes of social sciences in the Central and Eastern European space. New reflections arise that question the pre-war certainties. They focus in particular on the deconstruction of imperial conceptions in this space and on a renewed interest in the thoughts of the margins and the subaltern. They suggest to rethink the complexity of the post-Soviet space and to recognize the social, national and local sensitivities that make it up. As a counterpoint, these debates also question what Europe is today and the diversity of experiences that constitute it.

05h45 pm-06h45 pm: Round-table on Research in Exile 

Chair: Eloi Ficquet, EHESS, CESOR


The humanities and social sciences studying the world in various scales and situations involve close relationships with other researchers in the field, research assistants and interlocutors. These relationships generate exchanges of knowledge and involve regular circulation for colloquia, thesis juries and guest professorships. What happens in situations of hardship? When political and security conditions deteriorate to such an extent that humanitarian assistance is requested, that the relationship turns into a commitment, that the only possible circulation is exile, without knowing when the return will be possible? Under what conditions, in what ways are the ordinary means of research converted into means of solidarity? What forms does this solidarity take? What are the obstacles and limits? What does welcoming colleagues and partners imply beyond the usual scientific work? What does exile do to research, to objects of study, to interpretative paths, for researchers who are more or less temporarily exiled? These questions will be the subject of this round table discussion bringing together researchers benefiting from hosting programs and the people in charge of these programs.

With the participation of Paula Regina Benassuly Arruda, Federal University of Pará / Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3, CREDA, PAUSE, Vlad Berindei, FMSH, Alain Prochiantz, Collège de France, PAUSE and Science in Exile, Mitiku G. Tesfaye, Mekelle University / EHESS, IMAF, PAUSE, and Jessica Wong, EHESS, LAP, PAUSE.



  • November 10, 2022

09h00 am-10h45 am: Area Studies, Disciplines, and Interdisciplinarity

Rather than emphasizing the enduring hierarchical distinction between disciplines and area studies, this session will explore the history of their varying degrees of entanglement over time and space. Not only do the humanities and social sciences vary from one academic setting to the other, but, depending on their respective settings, they also lack a common way of construing the world. Consequently, they each have different relationships with area studies or global studies. Conversely, the many paradigms of holistic scientific understanding of the world that have succeeded one another or been combined over time (universal histories, orientalism, colonial ethnology, areal studies, etc.) do not mobilize the whole range of fields of knowledge and know-how instituted as disciplines within the humanities and the social sciences. When area studies began to take hold after the Second World War in North America, Europe, and the rest of the world, they promoted interdisciplinarity everywhere, albeit with different disciplinary articulations in the various academic settings. Still, the fact remains that area studies, thanks to their inter-, multi- or trans-disciplinary stance, can play a fundamental role in the long-lasting debate over disciplinary boundaries and alliances.  

Chair: Caroline Bodolec, CNRS, CCJ/CECMC

Dario Mantovani, Collège de France, ANHIMA: “The Many Territories of Roman Law:” 


Since the 11th century, the study of ancient Roman law displays contrasting tendencies. On the one hand, Justinian’s Corpus Iuris Civilis is an example of law without a territory and without time, because it was readopted, mainly through teaching in universities, as current law in many European states, both in the Middle Ages and Modern times. However, when replaced and studied in its ancient context, it is the law of a region, however vast the Roman empire might have been. Moreover, although for centuries its study of has been linked to the training of jurists in law faculties, it has also required a philological and historical approach for proper reconstruction. It has therefore been a timeless symbol of the difficult relationship between specialization and interdisciplinarity. Despite being relatively traditional, due to its central role in academic teaching and its normative reuse, Roman legal history has thus anticipated many of the polarizations that cross other disciplines today.

Ioana Popa, CNRS, ISP: “Sedimentations, Dislocations, and Rearrangements of Knowledge: The Construction of Area Studies in the Mid-20th century France:”

This contribution aims to show, on the basis of an empirical analysis of a particular historical and national context, that area studies are driven by a twofold trend, which is a source of dynamics, even tension. On the one hand, there is an aim to integrate fields of knowledge that had been until then compartmentalized and to establish a (new) scientific specialty as well as a specific way of organizing knowledge. On the other hand, sedimentation, inertia, as well as fluctuation and uncertainty as for the delimitation of this field and its relations with various disciplines (themselves more or less solidified) and with other approaches relating to “foreign” or “remote” areas, and finally, concerning the competences and know-how required to implement these studies. As they developed in the middle of the 20th century in some French academic institutions that will be taken here as a vantage point, area studies refer to composite practices, knowledge, skills and intellectual backgrounds, as well as to heterogeneous disciplinary and institutional arrangements, rather than to research and teaching programs that could be summarized through a univocal scientific label (which some players nevertheless intended to claim). The relationship between “area studies,” whose novelty is proclaimed in the middle of the twentieth century, and “disciplines,” supposedly established, would therefore be plural, less fixed and more plastic than the frontal opposition that has sometimes been attributed to these two ways of organizing science.

Kevin Ku-Ming Chang, Academia Sinica (Taipei): “The Return to Philology: China, the World and In-Between:”

Observers believe that the recent economic globalization has come to an end, thanks to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s conflicts with his neighbors and the US. What would happen to global studies, which had ridden the wave of globalization, and especially to China, which has been given an ample space in global studies? Should Western intellectuals revert to Orientalism when China sees itself a lonely Eastern superpower? Should we give up global studies altogether when China refuses to be a part of an open world? 

I will offer an answer that derives from a case study in comparative history of philology. This was the case of Yinke Chen (陳寅恪, 1890-1969). Educated at Harvard and especially Berlin, Chen received solid training in what was known as Oriental philology. Though a cultural conservative, he went far ahead of his contemporaries to apply the methods and perspectives of Oriental philology (which was Western, ironically) to the studies of medieval China. His most important contribution was the introduction of a multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic perspective, common in Indology and classical philology, to Chinese studies. It deconstructed the long-held orthodoxy of an ethnically homogeneous and ever-continuous history of the Chinese nation. This conceptual breakthrough made Chen the greatest scholar of medieval China of the twentieth century. 

This paper is a “return to philology,” in the words of Edward Said. Against militant nationalism, traditionalism, or even Orientalism, it highlights historical reflexivity, non-provinciality, and methodological and conceptual pluralism. For Said (and me), a philology-based humanism (in the humanities and social sciences) supports the search for knowledge, justice, and even liberation, hopefully also in the post-globalization age.

Commentator: Catherine König-Pralong, EHESS, CAK
Commentator: Eberhard Kienle, Science Po, CERI 

10h45 am-11h15 am: Break

11h15 am-01h00 pm: Uses and Misuses of Material Culture

Successively termed “of high curiosity,” “exotic,” or sometimes “primitive,” artefacts have served as means of apprehending the world for a number of scholarly disciplines, ranging from archaeology to anthropology. By periodizing and territorializing technical and stylistic features, material culture has thus served to define and date what has been labeled “cultural” traditions. The decontextualization of these studies has, over time, caused a predicament and repatriation claims. In the course of its journeys, the material culture of the far-off and the elsewhere, whether geographical or chronological, has acquired new significance and such transgressions have in turn become research objects. This session therefore will examine, on the one hand, the tensions between the definitions and discussions of the cultures produced by the study of these artefacts and, on the other, their contemporary uses, whether in identity politics, revivalist movements, disputes over cultural appropriation, or indigenous political struggles. All these phenomena further obfuscate the territoriality and temporality of these areas and cultures, which are simultaneously enduring and contested.    

Chair: Chloé Andrieu, CNRS, ArchAm

Benjamin Balloy, CNRS, FRAMESPA: “Misusing Pawnee Star Chart: A Case of Conflicting Translations?”

While the term “use” may seem neutral from a descriptive point of view, the expression “misuse” immediately implies a form of conflict, a quarrel concerning the use and qualifications of the user. Social scientists, as users among others, are necessarily taken to task. The question asked is no longer who speaks about the objects, but who speaks for them, on their behalf? This change of perspective makes translation a central process. The paper proposes to develop this perspective, hardly new, by mobilizing the tools of the sociology of translation (M. Callon/B. Latour), in order to expose a case. My starting point is a situation that I was confronted with. Wanting to study and physically access an object – a star chart painted on hide belonging to a major Skiri-Pawnee ritual object, purchased in the early twentieth century and now in the collections of the Field Museum in Chicago – it compelled me to reflect on my own intention of use and, more broadly, to think about competing translations that potentially disqualify themselves by speaking of “misuse.”

Nicolas Garnier, Musée du quai Branly: “A Few Reflections about the Notion of Style in the Art of the Sepik River (Papua New Guinea):” 

The Sepik is one of the longest rivers in the Pacific. Located in the north of Papua New Guinea, it is at the center of a vast network of swamps and tributaries on which populations with very varied cultures and languages have settled. These populations were at the origin of sculpted, painted or plaited objects of great diversity and complexity unequaled in the region. Very early on, they caught the attention of Western ethnologists and art collectors. Faced with an almost infinite repertoire of objects, shapes and patterns, the latter attempted to establish both nomenclatures (“styles”) and geographical areas based on both geographical criteria (“cultural areas”) and language as a dual cultural and geographical criterion. This presentation will summarize these different attempts by trying to highlight the justifications and implications of such classifications. Secondly, we will show how the construction of a postcolonial administration, as well as the development of tourism and an artistic production dedicated to its satisfaction, have redefined new boundaries and new identities. This second section will be based not on stylistic and spatial forms of categorization resulting from the Western gaze but as delineations and locally defines modes of modes of identities.

Miruna Achim, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (Mexico): “Tenacious Stones and Surface Tensions: The Making of Mesoamerican Jade:”

Jade, a natural and cultural entity, oily and smooth to sight and touch, yet incredibly hard to carve, is distinctly associated with Mesoamerica, predominantly with the Olmecs, Mexico’s so-called “original” culture, cultura madre. Mesoamerican jade came into being as a tenacious category of study in the course of the past two centuries, as the stone became alternately the object of mineralogical, prehistorical, and archeological classifications. The science of Mesoamerican jades obfuscates their entanglements with jades from other parts of the world (especially China, but also New Zealand and Neolithic Europe) and the ways in which the aesthetic, scientific, and commercial appreciation of jade bring the sites of its extraction into unexpected arrangements with transregional actors. This paper focuses on the recent discovery of jadeite deposits in the Motagua River Valley in Guatemala, in the wake of a series of (climate-change-induced) disastrous storms, which destroyed tropical vegetation, laid the ground bare, and resulted into archaeological looting and illegal trafficking of the raw mineral to China and Taiwan. Specifically, in this paper, I inquire into the conceptual and political arrangements that have sustained the differential production of knowledge and ignorance about jades, making it possible for certain narratives of the stones’ use and value to become prominent, while the social and environmental violence pending on their extraction has been silenced and opaqued. I conclude by suggesting the colonial critique of museums has flattened understanding of complex local, regional, and transregional ecologies, where jade is both ancient and contemporary, natural and artificial, inalienable and exchangeable, shaped by commercial values dictated elsewhere.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Leandro Leão, Universidade de São Paulo – EHESS, Mondes Américains/CRBC: “Art and Diplomacy: The Modern Brazilian in Cleavage in the Itamaraty Palace Collection in Brasília.” 

Commentator: Mercedes Volait, CNRS, InVisu
Commentator: Nathan Schlanger, ENC-PSL

01h00 pm-02h30 pm: Lunch

02h30 pm-04h15 pm: Languages and Texts

Over the past thirty years, two profound transformations in the world and in world knowledge, i.e. the digital revolution and the intensification of global connections, have shaped anew the issues of languages and texts, which are at the very heart of the definition and methods of area studies. This session will explore the implications of such transformations in four domains: texts, discourses, education, and the dynamics of exchanges. To what extent is Orientalism’s focus on the written word being challenged by the emphasis now placed on other texts, notably visual and oral ones, and by the digitization of archives and the development of digital humanities? Has the indigenization of the humanities and social sciences, as well as the introduction of “local” notions into the field of general theory, loosened the grip of tradition on how knowledge is written up, between a scholarly but localized hyper-contextualization and efforts at extra-linguistic formalizations aiming at supra-generality? What effects does the acceleration of circulation –and obsolescence– of knowledge have on students’ training in other languages and other textualities that proceed at a slower pace? Finally, to what extent is the practice of texts and languages affected by the reconfiguration of scientific networks in an academic world that is both more polycentric and more divided than the globalization of knowledge effected by international languages might suggest?  

Chair: Édouard Vasseur, ENC-PSL

Jean-Pierre Bat, ENS-PSL, Centre Jean-Mabillon: “From Archives to Social Networks, the Post-colonial Monopoly of the French Language in West and Central Africa and its Contestations:”

This presentation, based on fieldwork experiences as archival curator, focuses on the “archival turn” in Francophone Africa (West and West Central Africa). Colonial and post-colonial archives lead to question the construction of the contemporary state in Africa through the legacy of a colonial language, in this case French. Through the reality and illusions of the construction of an administrative power through the archive (or ‘paper administration’), the power and domination of an imperial language became a key point in the construction of the modern state. The most visible part of this legacy is the way public institutions have defined categories for governing societies in the transmission of the postcolonial state. This legacy, which became a political taboo after African independence in 1960, is particularly visible through the ‘surveillance archive’ and the complexity of accessing it.

The state was constructed through the archive in a specific and political language. But societies have tried to counteract this by distancing themselves from the language of the elite and of power. The loss of monopoly over language is the underestimated part of the crisis of the post-colonial state. This situation raises the question of the sanctuarization of language through writing as a specific gesture of power. On the contrary, the reinvention of politics takes place through forms of diglossia in the political speech that will be analyzed through the case of the crisis in Mali since 2012.


Chloé Ragazzoli, Sorbonne Université, Orient et Méditerranée: “Rereading ‘the Oldest Book in the World?’ From Ancient Egypt to Digital Humanities:”

The history of ancient Egypt as a scholarly field reveals successive epistemic regimes in the genealogy of European and extra-European sciences from the Middle Ages. When hieroglyphics were eventually deciphered at the turn of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, the study of ancient Egypt became a discipline and a full-fledged academic field, imprinted with philology and embedded in the world of orientalism, consecrating the primacy of the text to characterize a society of the past. 

The turn of the digital humanities leads to different paradigm shifts. Paradoxically for so-called dematerialized tools, the digital humanities continue the material, spatial and pragmatic turns of the humanities and social sciences of the last thirty years with written artefacts now envisioned in all their physical, visual, sound and social extension. This paper will explore these questions through a symptomatic case study, that of the ‘oldest book in the world,’ the Prisse papyrus bought in Egypt in 1844 and a pilot for a digital project of ontological redefinition of (Egyptian) texts. This example can be considered as characteristic of the tensions and cleavages that run through so-called disciplines of erudition, between hyper-contextualized expertise and fields of social and human sciences in their own right.


Yamanaka Yuriko, National Museum of Ethnology (Osaka): “Where Lie the Boundaries of “Nature”? A Comparative Study of the Marvelous and Uncanny:” 

In this paper, we will give a presentation of a multi-disciplinary comparative studies project we have been conducting at the National Museum of Ethnology in Osaka, centering around the cultural concepts of kyōi 驚異and kai’i怪異. Kyōi in Japanese is a term which means “marvels” or “wonders”, and is used in scholarly research to designate such a genre of texts in the monotheistic world in Europe and West Asia (mirabilia in Latin and ʿajāʾib in Arabic). Kai’i, on the other hand, has its roots in the Chinese word guaiyi, or the strange and uncanny, designating anomalous beings and incidents that were considered as omens of cosmic unbalance and disturbances. Japan, under the influence of the Chinese language and learning, adopted the concept, without embracing the exact same cosmological system. 

By juxtaposing these concepts (which rhyme because both words share the same second character i, meaning “different, strange, bizarre”) we were able to provide a common platform for researchers of various fields such as encyclopedism, witchcraft, and yokai studies, to reevaluate the boundaries between the “natural and supernatural”, “nature and culture”, the “rational and irrational”, and the “real and imaginary”. We hope to demonstrate how such an analytical framework in a non-Western language could offer a different perspective on the history of ideas hitherto shaped in the West.

Presentation of one graduate student’s poster: Grégoire Bienvenu, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, IRMECCEN: “Bridging the Inaccessible: Conducting Social Science Research on China from the Outside.”  

Commentator: Capucine Boidin, Université Sorbonne nouvelle Paris 3, CREDA
Commentator: Peter Stokes, EPHE-PSL, AOROC 

04h15 pm-04h45 pm: Break

04h45 pm-05h45 pm: Keynote lecture

Chair: Alain Delissen, EHESS, CCJ, CRC

Yoichi Mine, Dôshisha University (Kyôto): “Connecting Africa and Asia: A Question of Spatial Framing:”

Area study begins with the framing of a region, which must be contoured by distinct boundaries. Various disciplines are then mobilized to describe and analyze the traits and attributes of the framed space, though the framework itself can first be conceived intuitively. In Connecting Africa and Asia (Routledge), I proposed that these two regions be seen as a single macro-region (Afrasia) despite its internal diversity of cultures and geographic conditions. Applying the methodologies developed by Junzo Kawada (cultural triangulation) and Yuzo Itagaki (n-region), the paper discusses what the world looks like in this spatial framing and how its configuration will change in the coming decades. While paying homage to the Bandung spirit, I underscore the importance of disseminating a reflective critique of macro-parasitism within the region rather than sweepingly demonizing Western colonialism. Pointing out that geopolitical thinking, despite its crudeness, is gaining popular appeal, the paper discusses the possibility of conceiving a regional identity that does not make enemies internally and externally, thereby constituting a benign community. Finally, it looks ahead to the future ways of communication across the regions in the contexts of multi-lingual, multi-religious conundrums in Africa and Asia.

From 06h00 pm: Diner-cocktail and musical evening


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