Calendrier des conférences publiques 2010/2011
23 may 2011

Calendrier des conférences publiques 2010/2011

Tuesday, October 12th, 6:00 PM

In association with Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin.

"Statistical categories and normativity"

Conference of Alain DESROSIERES, administrator of the INSEE and member of the Centre Alexandre Koyre for History of Science.

Tension between descriptive and normative dimensions has always been at the heart of statistics, being at the same time tool of government and tool of evidences. Michel Foucault associates, in Naissance de la biopolitique, the emergence of statistics in the 18th century, to the issue of governing populations, distinct from the pure exercise of sovereign power. But he does not explore this intuition.
In the 19th century, normality and normativity are closely intertwined in Quetelet’s work on the "average man", presumed to be both normal and ideal. The expression "normal law" refering to the "Gauss law" appears around 1875 with the German statistician Lexis, about a supposed "normal length of life" (Canguilhem takes up these ideas in Le normal et le pathologique). At the end of the century, Pearson and Galton new tools of "biometrics" introduce another normativity, that of the eugenics doctrine, which aims to "improve" the human body and "select the best", in the same way one "improves" pets.
In the 20th century, the evolution of statistical tools accompanies changes in the "normal" role of the State, statistical indicators always expressing at the same time a description of the world, goals to be achieved and more or less successful efforts to achieve these goals. Research on the History of Statistics drew attention to the relationship between statistical categories and law, insofar as law pre-formats objects to quantify by enclosing them in a normativity of its own. This is also one of the difficulties of "international comparisons" and "benchmarking", which have become major tools for the governance of neo-liberal societies, as evidenced by the European "Open Method of Coordination ’(OMC) or classifications such as Shanghai.

Tuesday, October 19th, 6:00 PM

"Can we build a "national religion"?"

Conference of Roberte HAMAYON, Director emeritus at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Section of Religious Sciences.

Building a national religion has been, from the fall of the USSR, a major concern of two autonomous republics in Siberia, Yakutia and Buryatia, which had an active policy in this regard. The problem, complex, was new. Under the Empire, the Orthodox Church had Christianized peoples of Siberia. Then the Soviet regime had wanted to eradicate any form of institution and religious practice. Changes in lifestyle, migration and mixing of populations did the rest: Communism had become the only landmark.
But now, suddenly, return to the traditions and identity assertion prove to be possible. Both republics where Russians, the majority in government and in the population, want to take their distance from Moscow, have the impetus to declare their sovereignty. They choose to allow themselves autochthonous identity support. Yakutia opted first for a form of neo-traditionalism (giving institutional structures to shamanism), Buryatia, opted for a kind of millenarian utopia (by making Geser an epic hero, an echo of Roman Caesar, a cultural emblem, which soon coincides with Genghis Khan).
We will briefly recount these attempts to try to understand their failure beyond circumstantial reasons; what does it take to build a "national religion"?

Tuesday, October 26, 6:00 PM

"The presence of the Russian Empire in Palestine: Between domestic policy and international strategies (1847-1917)."

Confernce of Elena ASTAFIEVA, responsible for lectures at the EPHE.

Imperial Russia settles in Palestine in 1847 through the creation of the ecclesiastic Mission in Jerusalem. This event is part of a boarder process of investment in Palestine by the European Great Powers, investment defined in historiography as "the invention of the Holy Land." It comes after Syrian-Egyptian war of 1839 and the first project of internationalization of Jerusalem under the auspices of the major European powers. The invention of the Holy Land also appears as a reaction to the new secular ideologies - liberalism, socialism, nationalism - that threaten the religious values of Western societies. In the 1840s the Holy Land evolves from a "heavenly place" to an "earthly place", and Palestine, Arabian outskirts of the Ottoman Empire, but the center of three religions, becomes a place of confrontation for the religious and geopolitical interests of the major European countries, including the Orthodox Russian Empire.

The presentation to the Institute for Advanced Studies of Nantes, based on her findings in the archives in Russia, France, the Vatican and Italy, is devoted to the analysis of two main issues:
- How the installation of Russia outside its borders, in this case in Palestine, is used by the government in its domestic construction and maintenance of the Empire?
- And how this massive investment - political, religious, cultural - of Russia in this province of the Ottoman Empire, against France, Great Britain, Prussia / Germany, Austria, reinforces his status as a Great Power in the Middle East and even more in Europe?

Tuesday, November 23th, 6:00 PM

"Biology and society, from bio-sociology to socio-biology, and back"

Conference of André PICHOT, Researcher at the CNRS in History and Philosophy of Science (UMR 7117 CNRS-University of Nancy II).

The social sciences often have great difficulty responding credibly to statements made by some biologists on the supposed progress of their discipline (usually genetic) and their impact on society. Besides the intimidating tone of these statements, their scientific pretensions, a tendency to play with reality and evidence in their formulation, the difficulty is due to an extraordinary jumble of science and ideology in one camp like in the other, and a common history where social and biological disciplines have often interfered. In his alleged applications to society, biology does only return its own discourse to social sciences, which makes it difficult for them to criticize it.


Monday, December 6th, 2:00 PM

In association with Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin.

"Differences and similarities of the "gated cities in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and India."

Conference by Luis de la Mora,  coordinator of the CIAPA (Action Research Group) of Post-Graduation Program of Urban Development, Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in Recife (Brazil).

Urban fragmentation is exacerbated in contexts marked by major social, economic and urban inequalities. One of the interpretations of this fragmentation is the growth of closed residential communities. This phenomenon occurs in the city of Recife, in both the horizontal condominium projects on the outskirts of the city as well as in luxury buildings occupied by the richer class of the city, or in the slums and new real estate projects undertaken by the government. The objective is to summary seek intensity and specificities of the closure process in other social, economic and cultural contexts than Recife, to enlighten the latter.

Therefore, with researchers from the National Institute for Scientific Research in Quebec Montreal, we seek to identify through the Internet projects of gated cities in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa and India, to observe the similarities and differences from a physical, social, economic and symbolic point of view. This exploratory study shows that the phenomenon is global, independent from national contexts, and it manifests itself in the residential areas of the upper classes but also in the poor areas. However, local differences are recorded on the dimensions of the proposed gated cities, restrictions or on the contrary stimulations of the phenomenon, or on present amenities.

The main reason that emerges from case studies to explain the growth of this phenomenon reflects the desire to secure access and control of quality of urban services in different socio-political contexts in which state solidarity can be deficient. Specifically, studied gated cities are involved in the construction of an offer of protection from the increasing sense of fear of crime and urban violence.


Monday, January 10th, 2:00 PM

In association with Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin.

"The Adventure of city words"

Conference of Christian Topalov, CNRS research director and director of studies at EHESS Centre Maurice Halbwachs (UMR 8097 CNRS-EHESS-ENS).

Christian Topalov will introduce us the conclusions of his latest book, The Adventure of the city words (Robert Laffont, collection Bouquins, 2010):

Do not believe that city words describe simply the thing they refer to: they classify them in categories, assign them significations, sometime give them values. All it takes to be convinced is to try and translate them: it is generally impossible - even if it is often done. It is enough, as well, to have the curiosity to find out what a word about the city might have meant in the past: often something very different.
Thus, we tell in this book the adventure of words. They travel in time, changing their meaning without changing their appearance and these changes are part of the social history of cities allowing us to observe them from an original point of view. They also travel in space, sometimes from one language to another, they come and go. Erudite research which allows us to reconstruct such stories are full of amazing discoveries, often hilarious - much in the same way as those who endlessly use and recreate words, make light of heritage, concepts, etymologies.


Tuesday, January 11th, 6:00 PM

"What space offers the WTO to non-commercial consideration?"

Conference of Gabrielle Marceau, Professor at the Faculty of Law, University of Geneva and at the Graduate institute of International and Development Studies, Advisor to the Legal Affairs Affairs Division of the WTO.

The principles underlying the multilateral trading system come from the end of the Second World War. If the charter of the International Trade Organization ("ITO" organization stillborn) stressed the need to comply with "fair labour standards," the text of GATT, which survived and supported the multilateral trade relations between 1947 and 1995, makes no reference to the social dimensions affected by trade. Today, the World Trade Organization ("WTO") has an essentially economic function and its rules respond to the logic of a market economy. If the WTO aims to stimulate economic growth, it must do so, as clearly stipulated in the Marrakesh Agreement, in the interest of social welfare, and respect for sustainable development.

Gabrielle Marceau suggests that WTO rules can be interpreted and implemented in compliance with international norms and standards relating to human rights and other considerations issued from international social law. Several arrangements of the WTO treaty, inherited from the 1947 GATT, are likely to be read in an evolutionary manner, in light of sustainable development. This approach allows integrating social norms, or at least some of them, in the implementation of rights and obligations contained in various multilateral trade agreements. But the problem of the inclusion of social standards in the WTO system enlightens another question: is the WTO the proper place to discuss labor issues and set rules on this? Can it enforce such rules, including those of the ILO?


Tuesday, February 1st, 6:00 PM

"History of ideal housing. From East to West"

Conference of Angustin Berque, geographer, orientalist, director of studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales

This is the story of the reasons why urban society of rich countries has develop an ideal of individual housing close to nature. From the most ancient mythological expressions to the contemporary diffuse urban this history covers three millenniums. It leads today to an unbearable paradox: the quest for "nature" (in terms of landscape) destroys the object itself: the nature (in terms of ecosystems and biosphere).
The conference, focusing on eastern Asia, - where the notion of landscape appeared, in a conclusive manner - on Europe and on North America, will show the mingling, since the 18th century, of diverse filiations wherefrom the ideal of housing outside the city, in the heart of "nature", is issued.
The theoretical frame is the one of mesology (the study of human environments) that is to say an onto-geographical approach of environmental issues. Beyond the East-Western cleavage, one should emphasize the deep analogies that, here or elsewhere, establish in a single movement the person and the ecumene, relation between humanity and land area. We’ll show how the modern denial of the display of the being, alienating the human subject to the concrete environment, little by little has disconnected our world form the basis that gives its substance: the earth.
And, outside the walls where the modern paradigm has enclosed the being, we will propose a trail to recover the essential foundation.


Tuesday, March 15th, 6:00 PM

"Interview with Tzvetan Todorov about his book "The century of totalitarism", (Laffont, 2010)"

Conference of Tzvetan Todorov, Historian, essayist, Research Director Emeritus at the CNRS.

Communism is the great secular religion of modern times, one that has guided the course of world history for one hundred and fifty years. As traditional religions, it promises its adherents salvation; but it heralds the advent of the latter on the earth and not in heaven, in this life and not after death. It responds to the expectations of millions of people plunged into distress due to poverty and injustice, and that can not be comforted by the promises of the old religions. Gradually, humanity must benefit from this red messianism.
Fascism, Brother Enemy, appeared first as a shield against communism before it attacked its Soviet rival.
We will found in this volume the major writings of Tzvetan Todorov devoted to the totalitarian phenomenon. He explores several aspects: its ideology, the metamorphoses of morality in the concentration camps, daily life in countries of "real socialism", the psychology of rescuers during the Second World War, the actual forms of memory of that painful past. The evocation of the great events of history is enriched by stories of less known individual episodes, with portraits of people, everyday heroes, and autobiographical digressions. For this edition, Tzvetan Todorov has written an extensive introduction, "The totalitarian past and present", which situates his research in relation to each other and complete a review of new ideologies dominating our world, the democratic messianism and ultraliberalism.
This volume includes: Face à l’extrême (1991), Une tragédie française (1994), L’Homme dépaysé (1996, extraits) et Mémoire du mal, tentation du bien (2000).


Tuesday, March 17th, 6:00 PM

"Why going back to the history of political though"

Conference of Dick Howard,  Professor of philosophy at Stony Brook University (USA)

Dick Howard proposes, at the conference, an analysis of the dilemmas of contemporary political thought, at first with some reflections on our current political situation before coming to the presentation of the findings of his latest book, The Primacy of the Political. A History of Political Thought from the Greeks to the American and French Revolutions (Columbia University Press, 2010) :

"The conflict between politics and antipolitics has replayed throughout Western history and philosophical thought. From the beginning, Plato’s quest for absolute certainty led him to denounce democracy, an anti-political position challenged by Aristotle. In his wide-ranging narrative, Dick Howard puts his dilemma into fresh perspective, proving our contempory political problems are not as unique as we think.
Howard begins with democracy in ancient Greece and the rise and fall of republican politics in Rome. In the wake of Rome’s collapse, political thought searched for a new medium, and the conflict between politics and antipolitics reemerged through the contrasting theories of Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas. During the Renaissance and Reformation, the emergence of the modern individual again transformed the terrain of the political. Even so, politics vs. antipolitics dominated the period, frustrating even Machiavelli, who sought to reconceptualize the nature of political thought. Hobbes and Locke, theorists of the social contract, then reenacted the conflict, which Rousseau sought (in vain) to overcome. Adam Smith and the growth of modern economic liberalism, the radicalism of the French Revolution, and the conservative reaction of Edmund Burke subsequently marked the triumph of antipolitics, while the American Revolution momentarily offered the potential for a renewal of politics. Taken together, these historical examples, viewed through the prism of philosophy, reveal the roots of today’s political climate and the trajectory of battles yet to come."


Tuesday, April 5th, 6:00 PM

"The overthrow of Western metaphysics at the turn of 1700"

Conference of Dany-Robert Dufour, philosopher

We will try to advance some evidence to suggest that a complete reversal of Western metaphysics occurs at the turn of 1700 (that is to say between Pascal and Sade, with the benchmark date of 1704, the year of the first publication of the Mandeville’s Fable of the Bees). These are indeed the two main principles underlying this metaphysics that found themselves reversed, inverted, subverted. The first principle comes from the great monotheistic narrative from Jerusalem: before, the only possible world was based on the love of God (amor Dei), after, it appears possible based on the love of one’s self (amor sui). The second principle comes from the great story from Athens, one of the Logos. Before, the world arose on the prevalence of the noûs above the epithumiai (intelligibility on the action of impulse), after the "vice" the condition of "virtue" may be.
We will try to show that a third Western narrative has been created at the occasion of this double reversal: that of liberalism, which now dominates the world.


Thursday, May 19th, 6:00 PM

"Secular Religions and totalitarisms"

Conference of Marcel Gauchet, Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Social and editor of the journal Le Débat.

Lecture given on the occasion of the publication of his book « A l’épreuve des totalitarismes, 1914-1974 » (Gallimard, 2010) :

"In the wake of the crisis of liberalism discussed in the previous volume, this third volume is devoted to the totalitarian crisis which leads to the Great War. It seeks to establish its significance in the history of democracy. Totalitarianisms are not satisfied, in fact, with fighting "bourgeois" democracies as if they were foreign, they issued from them. They challenge them and they summoned them to take the challenge up. Where do they come from? Beyond the circumstances, they are bound up with ideologies of a new genre, born around 1900, under the banner of the revolution and the nation.
Marcel Gauchet traces the genesis. We have to understand them, he shows, as "secular" religions that is to say antireligious religions resulting from a specific and dangerous phase of the process of leaving the religion. The heart of the book is formed by the reconstitution of three experiments that deserve the name of totalitarian in the strict sense: Bolshevism, Fascism and Nazism.
The emphasis is on the dynamic that leads them, the royal road to understanding the essence from their inner contradictions. But the interest of a perspective is also to illuminate in contrast the profound changes experienced by democracy. The major political and social reforms after 1945 make sense as a response to the totalitarian challenge. In reality, liberal democracy as we know today is a result of this effort to overcome the shortcomings that were feeding the totalitarian refusal.
The twentieth century has not only been the scene of unprecedented tragedy. It was also the site of a success as obscure as it was decisive, that it is high time to draw out of the shade."*


* Editor’s abstract


Tuesday, May 24th, 6:00 PM

In association with Maison des Sciences de l’Homme Ange Guépin.

"Secularism and the 1905 Act on the Separation of Churches and State"

Conference of Emile Poulat, historian and sociologist, Director of studies at the EHESS.

Alain Minc believes that the 1905 Act should be amended. Many say so and think like him. On the contrary, Jean-François Coppé judges that it should not be changed. Many share his belief. Cardinal Barbarin recalled that it had been amended several times: in fact, very precisely fifty times in a century. We can, but should we? This is the issue with, said or not said, what feeds it: Islam and Muslims in France, a country of old Catholic tradition constitutionally secular.

Apparently, we are faced with an alternative: Should we or should we not? In reality, there is an urgent need to break this vicious and illusory alternative to consider: Secularism and the 1905 Act, what are we talking about?


Tuesday, May 31th, 6:00 PM

"Scene of comedy with a tragic hero"

Conference of Luca Giuliani, Rector of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin

Greek vases occasionally show images of theatre productions: we see actors in grotesque costumes and masks, performing actions that provoque laughter. What exactly makes an audience laugh is sometimes hard to understand for an outsider. Comedy is generally considered to be a light genre; but its jokes and double meanings are deeply context dependant and rooted in a specific culture; this makes comedy, despite all its lightness, a peculiarly difficult genre for historical interpretation. At the same time comedy is able to laugh about itself, and thereby gains a reflexive capacity that can go far beyond that of a serious genre like tragedy.


Tuesday, June 21th, 6:00 PM

"The State, the Society & Water"

Conference of Anupam Mishra, Gandhi Peace Foundation, New Delhi (India)

Faced with the inadequacies of the modern water distribution system of India, which has disrupted conservation and distribution methods, the rehabilitation of traditional techniques opens up a new perspective that is both less costly and more respectful of the environment and the local, social fabric. The use of village community technical know-how is based on the direct planning, execution and maintenance by the society. It insures equitable sharing of both the work and the benefits, at the same time as constituting a system of values that greatly structures the relationship of men with the divine and nature. Water is primarily an ethical and cultural issue, not a consumer product. The presentation highlights the time tested techniques in the desert of India, which receives lowest rainfall, highest temperatures with high salinity in ground water.