Nic Ulmi's interview with Maurice Godelier was first published in Le Temps, Switzerland. Translated by David Broder.
Godelier in 2014, via YouTube.
"They called me Maurice the Red. Not for political reasons, but because of the sunburn." Maurice Godelier recalls thusly his stay among the Baruyas of Papua New Guinea. A great deconstructor of received wisdom, the anthropologist — today in his eighties — passed through Geneva for a conference organised by the University and the Latsis Foundation. There he reasserted the need to recognise the invariants at work in human societies, as well as the need to observe the way in which the imaginary transforms into social facts.
On the occasion of the first anniversary of equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in France, the anthropologist Maurice Godelier deconstructs the a priori idea that kinship is the fundament of society.
Where is the family, one year on from the signing into law of marriage for all on 23 April 2013? Opponents of gay marriage have not ceased to deplore the debasement of the family, the new government no longer devotes a ministry to it, and the partisans of medically assisted procreation (PMA) and surrogate pregnancy (GPA) are still waiting.
A report on parentage co-signed by the sociologist Irène Théry and the jurist Anne-Marie Leroyer was published this week (see Libération, 9 April). At all of 80 years of age, Maurice Godelier – one of the greatest French anthropologists – has seen worse: from Oceania to Africa, he has studied all sorts of forms of kinship bonds, always starting from the situation on the ground in order to challenge myths and a priori assumptions. He tells us not to expect the family to fulfil impossible missions like the restoration of society. An ex-Marxist and still a materialist, he has not ceased to ‘keep his own thinking independent of the ruling opinions and ideas’.
To launch Set 7 in our Radical Thinkers series, we ran a competition last week to win a copy of every available book published in the series so far.
After a week of frenzied-question posting and a website crash in the face of Radical Thinkers popularity, I’m delighted to announce the winners and runners-up!
Fortnightly from the 9th of April, 2013, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, five engaging speakers will be introducing the thought of Ludwig Feuerbach, Simon Critchley, Max Horkheimer, Alain Badiou and Wilhelm Reich. These events will span themes from sexuality to economics, idealism to ethics, covered in the author’s books in the new set of Radical Thinkers.
Set 7, released this month, is the latest addition to the series. These beautifully designed books have been described by Owen Hatherley as “a compendium of left-wing philosophical and political thought.”
The following provides a brief introduction to the thinkers and offers some related preparatory materials.