HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in English, on the trajectory and legacy of French ethnologist Éric de Dampierre.
Buckner, Margaret, 2023. “Éric de Dampierre: Social Scientist and Discreet Builder of French Ethnology”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Ethnologist and sociologist Éric de Dampierre (1928–1998) was one of the main driving forces behind French ethnology from the 1960s to the 1990s. After studying literature, law and political science, he spent two decisive years (1950–1952) at the University of Chicago as a member of the Committee on Social Thought. A former student of Dampierre, Margaret Buckner traces his scholarly activities and contributions by drawing on both published and unpublished material, as well as personal conversations. She vividly outlines the exceptional trajectory of Dampierre from early scholarship to a position of leadership in the Parisian academia at the University of Nanterre, while highlighting his meticulous, long-term fieldwork experience in Africa. After discovering the Nzakara-Zande country in 1954, Dampierre set up a “sociological mission” in the Haut-Oubangui territory of French Equatorial Africa (now the Central African Republic) and he returned there almost every year until 1987. Having mastered the language and its poetry, he had an unequaled understanding of the Zande-Nzakara peoples and their neighbors. In this article, Buckner intertwines the main themes of Dampierre’s researches and his strategic contributions to the affirmation of ethnology and the social sciences in France. Despite his mentorship of generations of students and junior colleagues, his many publishing projects, and his shrewd maneuvering in institutional circles, Dampierre’s role in the history of the discipline is often overlooked. Less known internationally than a Claude Lévi-Strauss or a Georges Balandier, this “discreet” key figure is now brought to the fore. Buckner’s in-depth study is also a personal portrait and a tribute to her former teacher.