Marcel Mauss: A Centenary Tribute

Marcel Mauss: A Centenary Tribute

Marcel Mauss: A Centenary Tribute

Marcel Mauss: A Centenary Tribute

Synopsis

Marcel Mauss, successor of Emile Durkheim and one-time teacher of Claude Levi-Strauss, continues to inspire social scientists across various disciplines. Only selected texts of Mauss's work have been translated into English, but of these, some, as for instance his "Essay on the Gift," have proved of key significance for the development of anthropology internationally. Recently and starting in France, the interest in Mauss's work has increased noticeably as witnessed by several reassessments of its relevance to current social theory. This collection of original essays is the first to introduce the English-language reader to the current re-evaluation of his ideas in continental Europe. Themes include the post-structuralist appraisal of "exchange", the anthropology of the body, practical techniques, gesture systems, the notions of substance, materiality, and the social person. There are fresh insights into comparative politics and history, modern forms of charity, and new readings of some political and historical aspects of Mauss's work that bear on the analysis of regions such as Africa and the Middle East, relatively neglected by the Durkheimian school and by structuralism. This volume is a timely tribute to mark the centenary of Mauss' early work and confirms the continuing relevance of his ideas.

Excerpt

This volume offers a set of essays which re-evaluate the importance of the writings and inspiration of Marcel Mauss, the nephew and younger colleague of Emile Durkheim. One of the few scholars in Durkheim's circle to survive the Great War, Mauss continued teaching and publishing until the late 1930s, and he played a key part in the survival of the Durkheimian tradition in the social sciences. This is already well recognised, but it is only in recent years that a fresh generation of scholars and students has begun to recognise his distinctive contribution to, and reshaping of, that tradition. The essays presented here explore not only the context of Mauss's work and his influence on other writers, but also the resonance of some of his key themes for the concerns of today's anthropology and sociology.

Recent publications testify to the awakening realisation of the power of Mauss's writings in France and the French-speaking world. We should make special mention here of the substantial biographical work by Marcel Fournier from the University of Montreal, Marcel Mauss and his edited volume Marcel Mauss: écrits politiques, as well as the theoretical commentaries by Bruno Karsenti Marcel Mauss: le fait social total and L'homme total (for details see the select bibliography at the end of this volume). The correspondence between Durkheim and Mauss is being edited by Philippe Besnard, Marcel Fournier, and Christine Delangle, and is expected to appear in the near future. The Revue européenne des sciences sociales devoted a special issue (1996) to the proceedings of a 1995 conference 'Mauss: hier et aujourd'hui' held in Lausanne, Switzerland. Maurice Godelier published L'énigme du don in 1996, a major reassessment of Mauss's essay on the forms of exchange, and it is expected that this will shortly appear in English translation.

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