Les 'Chroniques éthiopiennes' de Marcel Griaule. L’ethnologie, la littérature et le document en 1934

Debaene, Vincent

Published in 1934, Marcel Griaule’s Les Flambeurs d’hommes [Burners of Men] recounts the first “Griaule mission,” undertaken in 1928 in the Godjam region of Ethiopia. Although forgotten today, the book was initially published to considerable success. Indeed, it deserves a critical reappraisal based on several features which make it completely unique and without any equivalent in ethnographic literature of the 20th century, foremost among them Griaule’s use of the third person when speaking about himself. To be properly understood, this curious text needs to be situated in the epistemological context of French ethnology of the interwar period. Indeed, Les Flambeurs d’hommes sheds light on the contradictions of the anthropological discipline of that era. In particular, it demonstrates ethnology’s ambivalent relationship to literature, as literature is held to be, on the one hand, that which must be discarded on behalf of the objectivity of the document, and, on the other hand, a technique much desired for its alleged ability to convey and restore the “moral atmosphere” of society.

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Academic Units
French and Romance Philology
Musée du quai Branly
Published Here
May 9, 2014