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Anthropology and Historiography of Ancient Forms of Polytheisms

Workshop “Antiquity and the Social Sciences”

> Participants


Cléo M. Carastro (EHESS)
Silvia D’Intino (CNRS)

ANHIMA Members

Renée Koch-Piettre (EPHE), Raphaëlle Laignoux (Paris 1), François Lissarrague (EHESS), Bernard Mezzadri (Avignon), François de Polignac (EPHE)

Other Members

Claude Calame (EHESS), Jean-Louis Durand (CNRS), Charles Malamoud (EPHE)

Associate Members

Chryssanthi Avlami (Athènes), Vincent Azoulay (Marne la Vallée), Sylvie Donnat-Beauquier (Strasbourg), Adeline Grand-Clément (Toulouse II), François Hartog (EHESS), Frédérique Ildefonse (CNRS), Pierre Judet de la Combe (EHESS), Ioanna Patera (Erfurt), Gabriella Pironti (Naples)


Giacomo Benedetti (EPHE), Elisa Ganser (EPHE), Elodie Dupey-Garcia (Mexico), Hélène Fragaki (Paris 10), Anne-Caroline Rendu (Genève)

Doctoral Students

Manon Brouillet (EHESS), Alessandro Buccheri (EHESS and Sienne), Jaini Fan (EHESS and Fudan), Hezhi Zhang (EHESS)

External Collaborators

Emily Aussant (CNRS), Lyne Bansat-Boudon (EPHE), Maurizio Bettini (Sienne), Claire-Akiko Brisset (Paris 7), Nicolas Dejenne (Paris 3), Stéphane Dugast (IRD), Renaud Gagné (Cambridge), Manuela Giordano (Calabre), Jean-Jacques Glassner (CNRS), Caterina Guenzi (EHESS), Jan Houben (EPHE), Dominique Jaillard (Lausanne), Aurélie Névot (CNRS), Charlotte Ribeyrol (Paris IV), Jia SI (Shanghai), Judit Torzök (Lille 3), Wei Zhang (Shanghai)

> About

Since its creation in 2003, the workshop “Antiquity and the Social Sciences” has been dedicated to encouraging interdisciplinary dialogue and comparison by means of comparative studies of ancient and contemporary societies that are the subjects of ethnographic investigations. The form of comparative study used by the workshop is contrastive and experimental in nature : this project, fitted into a long-term pattern, attempts to reconstruct the categories of thought peculiar to each cultural group in order to create the necessary conditions for documenting the object of comparison as change occurs.
Having conducted comparative studies on colors and iconographic representations (agalma), this new project intends to combine anthropological and historiographical approaches to conduct comparative research on ancient forms of polytheism (Greek, Roman, Indian, as well as Mesopotamian, Egyptian, and Chinese). The following topics will be explored :

I. « The Life of Objects : Complexes and Presentifications »

Directors : M. Carastro et S. D’Intino

Among the forms taken by presentification and the visualization of the invisible – especially divine powers – we are interested in individual objects. This individuality may be the result of an iconographic depiction, a ritual performance, or simply an evocation in a text or oral formula.
Within this thematic framework, we will develop the following points :

1. semantic investigation of the words used to say “object” in different societies ;

2. analysis of images : with respect to how objects are individualized in the iconic and/or graphic space on vases, stelae, gems, talismans, etc.

3. study of artifacts as “complexes” so as to perceive all their complex features (spatial, temporal, ritual, enunciative, etc.) and to shed light on both the enunciative and visual strategies and on the sensorial aspects (color, sound, smell) that figure in the presentification of the invisible.

II. « Comparative Approaches to Literary Practices »

Coordinated by : S. D’Intino et P. Judet de la Combe

This project is split between two workgroups :
1) “Comparative Approaches to Epic”
Starting on the premise that certain poetic practices are polytheistic forms of expression, this workgroup will compare different ancient (Greek, Indian, Mesopotamian) and contemporary (Japanese, Kanak) epic traditions and attempt to analyze how relations between human beings and gods are represented and actualized.
2) “Readings of the Dharma”
Among the theoretical “goals of man” in the Indian tradition, there is artha, “interest,” in its political and economic aspects ; kama, “desire,” broadly covering the sphere of the passions ; and dharma, “justice.” This last concept, which this workgroup will attempt to define, extends beyond the confines of law and embraces Sanskrit literature more broadly, from the Vedas to epic and drama ; the relationship with the divine is always on the horizon of this concept.

III. « Ancient Polytheistic Religions and Modernity : Cultural Translations and Transfers »

Coordinated by : C. Avlami et M. Carastro

The analysis of modern interpretations of Greek and Roman polytheism and their customs will be studied alongside the diffusion of classical knowledge (particularly by means of translations) in European and non-European societies of the 18th and 19th centuries. In particular, we will analyze the customs of ancient polytheistic religions as a conceptual frame of reference for descriptions of religious practices observed by missionaries, travelers, administrators, etc. Collaboration with historians at the Fudan University in Shanghai will enable us to develop research on the establishment and circulation of classical knowledge in China. For this project we also plan to exploit and expand the BAT database (Bibliotheca Academica Translationum) by reviving collaboration between the Classics Centre of Oxford University, the ANHIMA Center, and other project partners (German, Spanish, Italian, and Swiss).

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