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Témoignages de fidèles du Centre d'Études Arctiques

"The Centre for Arctic Studies in Paris - Invitation au voyage"

Par Jan Borm,
Associate Professor in English at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines

photo par © Anne Debever. de Jan Borm
Jan Borm et Jean Malaurie lors du colloque international
" Seuils & Traverses 3 ", en juillet 2002

I first met Jean Malaurie in Paris in 2001, at a moment when I was discovering his classic ethnography Last Kings of Thule (1955) and the two-volume account of his 31 expeditions to the Arctic, Hummocks(1999), a most dynamic and thought-provoking mix of ethnography, travel writing and spiritual autobiography.

To present myself briefly, I was born in Germany and educated partly in Great Britain. I read English at the University of Paris 7 where I also defended my Phd-dissertation on contemporary British travel writing in 1997. Since then, my research has been increasingly focusing on the intimate links between travel writing and ethnography, and, more generally, the relation between literature and anthropology, of which Jean Malaurie's writing is such a memorable illustration.

There is no doubt that much is to be gained from an interdisciplinary approach that considers the anthropological dimension of certain works of literature - Balzac's and Zola's come to mind - and the literary dimension of narrative ethnography. As to the latter, the aim consists in "saying everything" - that is, to try to do so as far as possible (see James Agee's and Walker Evans' Let Us Now Praise Famous Men) - by notably accounting for the ethnographer's experience in the field and what has shaped his point-of-view.

This is how Jean Malaurie manages to tie in dreams and knowledge, the stimulating association Gaston Bachelard dreamed of in his influential works on material and dynamic imagination.

This interdisciplinary approach is also the hallmark of Jean Malaurie's seminars organized by the Centre for Arctic Studies at the famous Parisian Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales. In the last couple of years, there have been heated debates about such fundamental issues as truth in ethnology (see the volume of seminar papers De la vérité en ethnologie.. edited by Dominique Sewane and published by Economica in 2002), or the question of what ethnophotography is, does and/or should do.

These seminars have led me on to discover the "Fonds Polaire Jean Malaurie" at the central library of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, a haven and goldmine for anybody interested in Arctic studies. Located within the Jardin des Plantes, right next to the great gallery of evolution and not far from Buffon's residence, the collection presently contains 40000 volumes.

I have been able to read Otto von Kotzebue in German there and to admire the illustrations of his account, to dream austere dreams of Greenland's prehistory with Eigil Knuth (see his important study published by the Centre d'Etudes Arctiques) or to travel to the North with Hans Egede and his family in his eighteenth-century account.

The catalogue is impressive and easy to consult. The library also offers useful links to Arctic studies worldwide via various cd-roms and internet. As to my current research, I am working on a book that will aim at drawing Jean Malaurie's intellectual portrait, to be published by Editions du Chêne in 2004 and a study of Arctic ethnography for both of which the Fonds Polaire is of precious help.

Jan Borm a organisé le colloque international et pluridisciplinaire " Seuils & Traverses 3 ", les 10-13 juillet 2002, à l'Université de Versailles St Quentin en Yvelines.

-> Autres témoignages de fidèles du Centre d'Études Arctiques

L'affiche du colloque international " Seuils & Traverses 3 " en juillet 2002 © Anne Debever
Jean Malaurie et Melle Rose, conservatrice de la bibliothèque du château de Versailles, qui a bien voulu accueillir le colloque " Seuils & Traverses 3 ", en juillet 2002 © Anne Debever
Jan Borm, organisateur du colloque " Seuils & Traverses 3 ". © Anne debever

Présentation : historique et activités Le professeur Jean Malaurie
Les Séminaires d'Études Arctiques Levé de carte au Groenland
Liste des mémoires et thèses soutenus Pôle géomagnétique Nord
L'Académie Polaire d'Etat de Saint-Pétersbourg  
La première mission soviéto-française en Tchoukotka Bibliographie - Films - Congrés internationaux - CD
Témoignages de fidèles du Centre d'Études Arctiques Collection Terre Humaine
Hommages de personnalités Collection Polaires
Témoignages sur les Inuit d'aujourd'hui  
Le Festival international du film arctique  
La revue Inter-Nord Remerciements
Visiter le dossier sur le Fonds Polaire Jean Malaurie

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