The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has awarded
the CNRS Gold Medal for 2001 to Maurice Godelier, directeur détudes
(de classe exceptionnelle) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences
Sociales (EHESS, a prestigious institute for the study of social sciences).
An internationally renowned anthropologist, Maurice Godelier is a specialist
of the societies of Oceania. Between 1967 and 1988 his fieldwork focussed
on the Baruya, a New Guinea Highlands tribe. In addition to his research
on the Oceania, on the basis of which he has published numerous works
and made documentary films, Maurice Godelier has also explored a number
of essential domains: the role of the idéel (mental constructs)
in social relations, the distinction between the imaginary and the symbolic,
and more recently the distinction between things one gives, things one
sells and things that can be neither given nor sold. In addition, he has
also devoted an important part of his life to scientific policy making.
From 1982 to 1986, he held the position of scientific director at the
CNRS, as chairman of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences.
He is currently member of the National Council of Science, and vice president
of the National Coordination Board for Social Sciences and Humanities.
He has been mandated by the Prime minister to take stock of the state
of social sciences and humanities in France, and to promote their development
in the framework of the construction of the European Research Area.
Maurice Godelier was born on 28 February 1934 in Cambrai, in northern
France. He ranked highest in the entry examination to the Ecole normale
supérieure de Saint-Cloud, obtained the agrégation
in philosophy, and earned degrees in psychology and modern literature.
He entered the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes as chef de travaux
under Fernand Braudel, and later was made lecturer under Claude Lévi-Strauss,
who was at the time professor of anthropology at the Collège
de France. In 1975 Maurice Godelier was appointed directeur détudes
at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
Originally trained in philosophy, Maurice Godelier rapidly turned his
attention to economics. In 1966, he published a book devoted to the notions
of Rationality and Irrationality in Economics, becoming one of
the French founders of economic anthropology.
Maurice Godeliers career was to be deeply influenced by his encounter
with the Baruya, a New Guinea Highlands society discovered in 1951 by
the Australians which has neither classes nor a state structure, but which
is characterized by a high degree of gender inequality and numerous institutions
serving male domination. He observed and analyzed the transformations
in this society based on hunting and horticulture that very quickly entered
the market economy, was integrated into a state imposed by the West and
exposed to the missionary zeal of Christian churches. Alongside his field
research, Maurice Godelier has explored a number of domains essential
for the development of the social sciences : reflections on the mental
components of social relationships, on the necessary distinction between
the imaginary and the symbolic, on the role of the body in the construction
of the social subject and, more recently, on the distinction between the
things one sells, the things one gives and the things that must be neither
sold nor given, but must be transmitted.
The results of his work have been published in a series of books most
of which have been translated into many languages. His chief publications
- La production des Grands Hommes. Pouvoir et domination masculine
chez les Baruya de Nouvelle Guinée, Ed. Fayard (1982). (The
Making of Great Men. Male domination and Power among the New Guinea Baruya,
Cambridge University Press, 1986). Prize of the French Academy.
- Lidéel et le matériel, Ed. Fayard (1984).
(The Mental and the Material. Thought, economy and society, Verso,1986).
- Lénigme du don, Ed. Fayard (1996). (The Enigma
of the Gift, Chicago, Cambridge; Chicago University Press, Polity
La Production du corps. Approches anthropologiques et historiques
and Le Corps humain, supplicié, possédé, cannibalisé.
Texts collected and edited by Maurice Godelier and Michel Panoff. Amsterdam,
Archives contemporaines (1998).
Maurice Godelier has also made a number of films with Australian film-maker
Ian Dunlop, and with Marek Jablonko and Steve Olson, two American film-makers.
His films include:
Planète Baruya, directed by Ian Dunlop (Production: CNRS
Audiovisuel, FR3, Australian Film Unit, 1976).
He also co-authored a C.D. Rom with Jacques Kerchache: Chefs duvre
et civilisations Afrique, Asie, Océanie, Amériques,
which received the "Best of" for cultural CD-Roms in 2000, and
the Eurêka dOr.
In addition, he has also published over 200 articles in various French
and foreign journals.
In addition to his research activities, Maurice Godelier has always been
closely involved in scientific policy making. In 1982, the then Minister
of Research and Industry, Jean-Pierre Chevènement, entrusted him
with drawing up a recommendation for reforming the humanities and social
sciences in France. His findings were presented in a 600-page report entitled
Les Sciences de lHomme et de la Société en France.
Analyse et propositions pour une politique nouvelle (La Documentation
Française, 1982). In it he advocated putting an end to the division
between the humanities and the social sciences, and urged the creation
of a single science department within the CNRS called now: the Department
of the sciences of Man and Society. Maurice Godelier was Director
of this department from 1982 to 1986.
In 1995, he created the Centre de Recherche et de Documentation sur
lOcéanie (CREDO), which he directed until 1999. From
1997 to 2000, he was Scientific Director of the new National Museum in
Paris devoted to Arts and Civilisations in Africa, Asia, Oceania and the
Americas, and called Musée du Quai Branly.
Maurice Godelier is an officer in the French Legion of Honor. He has been
awarded the French Academy Prize (1982) and the International Alexander
von Humbolt Prize for Social Sciences in 1990.
Tel : +33 1 44 96 46 35
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