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The birth of French ethnology. The first ethnographic missions to Africa

The birth of French ethnology. The first ethnographic missions to Africa
Sahara-Sudan Mission (1935) ©Bibliothèque Éric-de-Dampierre, MAE

The first ethnographic missions to Africa marked in France the beginnings of field ethnology and the birth of the discipline. These events, the actors on these missions, and the historical context will appear first on this portal. The introductory texts will be accompanied by maps and illustrated by collections of iconographic archival documents. The first set is for a wide audience interested by the subject. For a more scholarly use, the different sources of information on these missions (archival collections, photographs, fieldwork artifacts) will be localized, indicated, and described. An inventory will be taken of the publications from these different missions and, whenever possible, made available in their entirety.
The three partners are the Quai Branly Museum, the BnF, and the project lead, the Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology (CNRS, UPO). The complementarity of the archival, documentary, and museum resources conserved in the three institutions, especially concerning the Dakar-Djibouti Mission, and the promotional experiences make this collaboration both natural and necessarily fruitful.
With its focus on questions of promotion, online publishing, and restitution, this portal especially seeks an alternative solution to the systematic and complete putting online of fieldwork data, once it is digitized, which would infringe on the rights of the ethnographers and their subjects. The collections will consist of documents carefully and ethically selected. Some of them will be made available to a photo sharing site, such as Flickr, for a wider distribution and commentary. We wish to encourage and collect reactions from scholars, artists, and from the more general public, especially from the countries originally studied by those missions. The portal will thus allow for experimentation with a mode of promotion and restitution of “sensitive” archives while respecting ethical principles, in collaboration with several audiences.

Project leaders
Sophie BLANCHY, CNRS, assistant director of the Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology (LESC) - UMR 7186
Marie-Dominique MOUTON, CNRS, director of the Éric-de-Dampierre Library (LESC)
Frédéric DUBOIS, CNRS, Éric-de-Dampierre Library (LESC)

Project scientific  leader
Éric JOLLY, CNRS, Centre d'Etudes des Mondes Africains (CEMAf) - UMR8171

Co-worker under contract
Laure CARBONNEL, PhD student in ethnology (University Paris West, LESC, CEMAf)

Internal cluster partners
Laboratory of Ethnology and Comparative Sociology (LESC) Éric-de-Dampierre Library
French National Library (BnF)
Quai Branly Museum (MQB)

Duration : 2 years