Mircea Eliade and the Nostalgia for Origins
Paper short abstract:
As applied to the great historian of religions, "nostalgia for origins" refers to Eliade's status of living in exile, far from his native Romania, and also to his strong interest in the primordial cultural facts ("archetypes") by which he may be epistemologically integrated to anthropology.
Paper long abstract:
In the first part of the paper, the author refers to Mircea Eliade's status of living in exile, far from his native Romania. Paradoxically, the exile helped him to survive physically and, moreover, to achieve his intellectual vocation. The scholar assumed the exile as a distressing experience of moving away from the "centre", but, as a saving solution, he decided that the centre may be spiritualized and taken all over the the world. In the second part, an epistemological profile of Mircea Eliade is sketched starting from the echoes of his works in several domains. Successively, Eliade is presented as mythologist, philosopher, and historian of religions (the last being the identity he personally preferred). To these well-known facets one more is added: that of anthropologist. The author's argumentation is based, largely, on the special attention Eliade paid to the "archaic" cultures (and especially on his Indian experience), here interpreted under the perspective of the cross-cultural comparisons and participant observation as principal methods of anthropology. Finally, the two hypostases of nostalgia are synthesized by Mircea Eliade in his volume "De Zalmoxis à Gengis-Khan. Études comparatives sur les religions et le folklore de la Dacie et de l'Europe Orientale" (Paris, Payot, 1970; English version: "Zalmoxis, the Vanishing God", Chicago, 1972).
On the move: fieldwork, academy and home in the early anthropologists' careers