Maurice Godelier

Maurice Godelier is Professor of Anthropology at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris. His publications include Rationality and Irrationality in Economics, The Mental and the Material, The Making of Great Men, The Enigma of the Gift; In and Out of the West, and The Metamorphoses of Kinship.


  • From Kinship to Geopolitics: A conversation with Maurice Godelier

    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.

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  • ‘Don’t count on the family to fulfil impossible missions’: An Interview with Maurice Godelier

    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’.

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  • "We are all bisexual"—Maurice Godelier discusses changing forms of kinship on Thinking Allowed

    Maurice Godelier discusses his new book, The Metamorphoses of Kinship, on a special episode of Radio 4's Thinking Allowed, with host Laurie Taylor and distinguished British anthropologists Adam Kuper and Henrietta Moore. 

    Discussing why kinship is so fundamental to anthropology, Godelier takes issue with the idea of more 'kinship-based' societies, or the idea that 'primitive' societies are much more driven by kinship, whereas more developed societies are shaped more by other structures. This is simply wrong, says Godelier. 

    They go on to discuss 'new forms' of kinship, such as same sex parenting, whether we should be more concerned with universal kinship norms (such as the incest taboo)  or cultural differences. Asked by Laurie Taylor whether, for example, acceptance of gay marriage, can be made universal. Godelier replies that 'exporting' kinship norms is impossible—such changes only come about internally.

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