chapter  9
23 Pages

Collecting, instructing, governing: fields, publics, milieus Colonial humanism and greater France: colonial and

In his biography of Marcel Mauss, Marcel Fournier (2006) draws attention to two texts in which Mauss lamented France’s lack of adequately developed institutions for the pursuit of ethnographic research and the dissemination of its fi ndings. In the fi rst, Mauss (1969 [1913]) compares French ethnography unfavourably with British, American, Dutch and German anthropology. He particularly regrets its lack of a developed fi eldwork tradition and, as his explanation for this, a failure on the part of French ethnographers to connect their work to the tasks of colonial administration. If it were to close this gap, French ethnography needed ‘fi rst, fi eld studies, second museums and archives, and third, education’, the latter directed towards the training of ethnographers. These steps were necessary, he concluded, if France were to fulfi l its responsibilities to its colonial subjects, whom he characterised as hitherto ‘the human groups it was trying to govern without even knowing them’ (Mauss, cited in Fournier, 2006: 167). In the second text (Mauss, 1920) it is the relationship between ethnography and the French public that exercises Mauss’ attention. Regretting that there was still ‘no museum of ethnography in France worthy of the name’ and ‘no laboratories dedicated specifi cally to the study of indigenous peoples’, he also complains that the ‘general public know nothing of our research’ and – as I noted in the previous chapter – urges the need for ethnographers to ‘do publicity, since a science can become popular only though vulgarisation’ (Mauss, cited in Fournier, 2006: 215).