HAR is pleased to announce the latest release from BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology. This paper, in French, examines Arnold Van Gennep’s fieldwork in Algeria in 1911 and 1912, his only ethnographic work outside of Europe.
Pouillon, François, 2020. “Arnold Van Gennep en Algérie. Le détour exotique d’un ethnologue de l’Europe,” in BEROSE – International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Arnold van Gennep is best known today for his rites of passage theory, his contributions to the international debate on totemism, and his folklore studies. In this paper, François Pouillon reveals a less known facet: Van Gennep’s field experience in a colonial context, namely in Algeria, from 1911-1912. He invites the reader to browse through Van Gennep’s articles, archives, and his fascinating monograph En Algérie (In Algeria, 1914). Van Gennep developed a demanding research practice and a kind of reflexivity that was quite innovative at the time. Pouillon convincingly demonstrates that this Algerian experience was indeed a turning point in Van Gennep’s career, as it encouraged him to pursue his ethnography in rural France for reasons related to the predicaments of research in Muslim countries under European rule. Pouillon’s reading of the fascinating key text Les demi-savants (The Semi-Scholars, 1911), written in the same period, sheds further light on Van Gennep’s personality and on his singular place in the history of anthropology.