Accepted Paper:

Anthropology, historical and natural science of culture  

Author:

Joel Candau (University Côte d'Azur)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to advocate that if anthropology wants to embrace its « raison d'être » entirely, it must demand membership in both the historical sciences and the natural sciences.

Paper long abstract:

In the « Sidney W. Mintz lecture » delivered November 13, 2002, in The John Hopkins University's, Immanuel Wallerstein called for a reconstruction of the Social Sciences. Wallerstein argued that the 19th century division of academiae into the various disciplines « has outlived its usefulness and is today a major obstacle to serious intellectual work ».

While confining my remarks to the state of Anthropology, I shall quickly outline this current crisis and then propose a definition of our discipline that can help us to resolve this crisis.

On the basis of my research on memory and smell, I advocate that if anthropology wants to embrace its « raison d'être » entirely, it must demand membership in both historical sciences and natural sciences.

I shall insist on the necessity of the historical sciences membership through three arguments: i) obligation to work only on remains of the past, ii) impossibility of dissociating our observations from particular socio-historical contexts, iii) necessary incorporation in our analytical frameworks of the specifically human aptitude of Mental Time Travel.

My argument relating to the membership in the natural sciences will also be developed through three points: i) challenge of the hypothesis of Blank Slate, ii) importance in cultural phenomena of cognitive and emotional processes of which we are not entirely aware, iii) effects of secondary altriciality and epigenetic factors on humans being.

In fine, I shall argue that it is scientifically justified to maintain Anthropology as the sole constituted discipline capable of conceptualizing the interconnectivity between the individual and the universal.

Panel W075
The fall of cultural man: some proposals for an anthropology less cultural and more natural