7 | 2023 - Identity versus science? Science at the service of identity?

The appropriation of knowledge in terms of identity is a key phenomenon in human societies and is already part of the analytical agenda of the social sciences. For many years, it was associated with constituted powers or political currents of various backgrounds, but in recent decades it has been marked by a new phenomenon. In the name of the recognition of the rights or memory of minorities from populations that were victims of colonialism, there has emerged a demand for a degree of control over the conditions of scientific investigation or its results. This tension between science and identity has been particularly acute in the fields of archaeology and anthropology, and has been addressed in particular from the angle of how the past is used and of the status of museographic objects in the post-colonial context. The articles in this issue fall within the scope of these disciplines and present case studies ranging from casts of ancient art in France to the Venus de Milo in Japan.

1. Archaeology in support of national identities: why is it necessary to destroy plaster casts of ancient art?

Irene Avola.
Following the example of Germany and after 1870s, plaster casts of ancient art are subject to a “cultural transfer” in France and in Italy. This kind of process reflects the birth of archaeology as a science; it is aligned to a specific change in higher education and it allows a nation building / re-building (by referring to Italian and French examples). In addition, the consolidating nation process is based on a cultural mechanism caused by globalization, i.e. “inventing tradition”. The “myth of white Greece” or that of “Romanity” can be taken into account in order to justify the destruction of plaster casts of ancient art.
Section: Articles

2. From the exhibition in colonial exhibitions to the new Ainu National Museum: Is the voice of the indigenous impenetrable in the museum space?

Alice Berthon.
Has the inauguration of the first Ainu National Museum in Japan in 2020, which follows the recognition of their indigenous status in 2019, redefined the actors at play in discussing Ainu history? The study of this new museum will serve as a case study to analyse the elaboration of discourses defining Self and Other, as well as the relationship between those who produce knowledge about the Ainu and the Ainu themselves.
Section: Articles

3. Socio-centric biases and constructions of otherness: For a critical and reasoned anthropological approach

Sophie Chave-Dartoen.
Considering the colonial heritage and the other forms of domination makes it necessary to take a critical approach to the positions of authority on which scientific discourse is based. What would be the conditions for the possibility of knowledge giving access to alternative forms of knowledge and discourse about the world? Does not every approach bring its own biases in the project of universal knowledge? The reflection is based on an ethnographic survey (Wallis) and the current debate on the restitution of African museum collections by former colonial countries.
Section: Articles

4. Is the Venus of Milo Japanese?

Michael Lucken.
The Venus of Milo is seen as a unique masterpiece of Greek art. However, to the great displeasure of the Greek authorities who are demanding its return, it has belonged to the French public collections since 1821. More generally, it is widely considered a European and Western heritage. And it goes without saying, its beauty is universal. But can it be Japanese? Through the examination of the reception of the Venus de Milo in Japan, the aim is to reflect on the conditions of a utopian appropriation of art works, given that, unlike texts that can be quoted, cut and mounted, paintings and statues are strongly dependant on their materiality. Against the current discourse on the dematerialization of art works, which goes hand in hand with an increasing fetishization of the originals, this article explores the path of an incorporation through practice and repetition.
Section: Articles

5. French Polynesia: last bastion of the “invention of tradition”?: When the scientific field rejects cultural renaissances

Florence Mury.
While the actors of cultural renaissances in French Polynesia do not hesitate to mobilize historical, archeological or anthropological research work as means of knowing the precolonial past, the scientific field, especially the French-speaking researchers, continue to overlook and discredit this cultural enunciation. The historicity of the practices and the aims pursued within the framework of these renaissances are thus questioned, revealing the still decisive influence of a theory that has nevertheless been undermined elsewhere in the Pacific: the invention of tradition.
Section: Articles

6. Science, identity and the law: Intersecting conceptualization and operationalization of race and ethnicity

Andras L. Pap ; Eszter Kovacs Szitkay.
The comparative legal scholar authors, working a broad project mapping how law conceptualizes and operationalizes race, ethnicity and nationality, provide an assessment of the triadic relationship between law, identity (making and claims recognition) and science. The project focuses on race and ethnicity, excluding the discussion of gender identity, but the latter is used as a point of reference to demonstrate the transformative changes in the past years in how the meaning of the terms of identity are assigned and conceptualized in social sciences and humanities, and to a certain degree in politics and law. Yet, there is a debilitating lack of linguistic and conceptual resources, cultural tools, and a solid and proper vocabulary for thinking about racial identity, which is particularly stark in the field of law, especially international law, which habitually operates with the concepts of race, ethnicity, and nationality when setting forth standards for the recognition of collective rights or protection from discrimination, establishing criteria for asylum, labeling actions as genocide, or requiring a “genuine link” in citizenship law, without actually providing definitions for these groups or of membership criteria within these legal constructs. The paper provides an overview of the obstacles, challenges and controversies in the legal institutionalization. In technical terms, the operationalization of ethnic/racial/national group affiliation can follow several options: […]
Section: Articles

7. Farmers or hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu debate

Peter Sutton ; Keryn Walshe ; Christophe Darmangeat.
Dark Emu (2014), a book written by Bruce Pascoe, argues for a drastic revision of the vision of Aboriginal peoples at the time of the colonisation of Australia. Traditionally presented as nomadic hunter-gatherers, they were in fact for the most part villagers who applied some forms of agriculture and fish farming, all of which were concealed by those who wanted to appropriate their lands, thus forging a false version perpetuated by anthropological tradition. This provocative thesis has had a huge impact in Australia, where it has been the subject of much controversy. Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe’s book is the first rebuttal by academic specialists–who are also deeply involved in the defence of the rights of Aboriginal communities.
Section: Articles

8. “Here come the anthropos”: what is an archeologist for ?

John Whittaker ; Christophe Darmangeat.
Starting with a song denouncing anthropologists and prehistorians as disrespectful of the cultures they study, the article reflects on the relationship between lost cultures and their scientific study, drawing on the author’s personal experience. It then examines NAGPRA, the federal “Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act”, which in 1990 gave Native American communities extensive rights over various cultural properties and archaeological sites. He highlights the paradoxical, if not perverse, effects of such legislation, which has not necessarily contributed to a better knowledge (and recognition) of pre-colonial societies in North America.
Section: Articles

9. Les ateliers relais, sociologie d’un partenariat entre éducation populaire et Éducation nationale: Thèse en sociologie, sous la direction de Thierry Berthet, soutenue le 8 juillet 2021, Aix-Marseille Université (AMU)

Alicia Jacquot.
Résumé de la thèse d'Alicia Jacquot, intitulée "Les ateliers relais, sociologie d’un partenariat entre éducation populaire et Éducation nationale", sous la direction de Thierry Berthet, soutenue le 8 juillet 2021 à Aix-Marseille Université.
Section: Thesis Summaries

10. Les dynamiques de l’intégration : associations d’aide aux migrants et sociétés au cœur des espaces français, espagnol et danois. Thèse en sociologie, sous la direction d’Olivier Cousin et de Claire Schiff, soutenue le 17 mars 2022, université de Bordeaux

Morgan Lans.
Résumé de la thèse de Morgan Lans, intitulée "Les dynamiques de l’intégration : associations d’aide aux migrants et sociétés au cœur des espaces français, espagnol et danois", sous la direction d’Olivier Cousin et de Claire Schiff, soutenue le 17 mars 2022 à l'université de Bordeaux
Section: Thesis Summaries