N°8 Printemps 2005
PAYS, TERROIRS, TERRITOIRES
When he became chief of State in Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah hung a very large painting in the antechamber of his presidential suite. It depicted, in a great surge of force, a giant Nkrumah breaking the chains of colonialism. The figure was surrounded by dramatic storm clouds and flashes of lightning. At his feet, fleeing towards the edge of the canvas, as if to avoid the storm and the wrath of the emancipator by leaving the frame, were three small figures. One was a pallid white man carrying a briefcase: a capitalist. The second scurried holding a Bible: a missionary. The third figure, smaller than the other two, but the most important for us, was a man carrying a book. Its title was legible: African Political Systems. He’s the anthropologist. And, at least at the beginning, the leaders of the new states preferred the help of economists, agronomists, and engineers to develop their usually patchwork and very fragile societies, as well as, too often, unfortunately, that of military men to train their new armies.
After decolonization, Western businessmen and missionaries quickly learned to conduct their affairs by other means. But where could the anthropologists go once they left the frame? In 1975 Jacques Soustelle had prevailed on his old friend, Giscard d’Estaing, now President of the Republic, to save the archaeologists by finding them things to do in France. Soustelle was a distinguished archaeologist of the great South and Central American cultures. In the 1930s he had been a Socialist and an active participant in the Popular Front. During post-war years, he became a member of General de Gaulle’s inner circle, and, in the early 1960s, a determined champion of Algérie française. Their common devotion to keeping Algeria a part of France had initially brought Soustelle and Giscard together. One form that Giscard’s support took was the creation in the Ministry of Culture of a Direction du Patrimoine in 1978.
Following the lead of Soustelle, Isac Chiva, of the Laboratoire d'Anthropologie Sociale of the Collège de France, undertook to save French ethnology from its postcolonial crisis. He saw the creation of government-sponsored new office of the patrimoine as an opportunity to address the current crisis of employment in his discipline.
The years before the elections of 1981 were good for the salvage of ethnology. Regionalist movements in major regions of France — particularly very militant in Brittany, Occitania, and New Caledonia — were diffusing the stories of historic and contemporary oppression by Paris. And, in the aftermath of events of May ’68, parties on the left — especially the PSU, the Maoists, and even Mitterrand’s Socialist Party — had been actively supporting many of these movements. There was, too, the previous decade’s example of André Malraux’s cultural ministry hiring some sixty ex-colonial administrators to run his successful new office. Finally, after Three Glorious Decades of economic and social modernisation, a mood of nostalgia, a mode rétro was sweeping the urbanized nation.
To begin to build interest in his project, the regions of France, Isac Chiva, Assistant Director of Lévi-Straus’s Laboratory of Social Anthropology in the Collège de France, organized conferences in the provinces on the French ethnology of the provinces. The first one was entitled « The Regions of France ». These meetings had two purposes. One was to show how much local knowledge ethnologists had of the rebellious provincial France of the 1970s, as well as how much there was still to do in regional studies. Second, the conferences were implicitly a criticism of the immobility of the museum of popular arts and traditions.
Chiva then sent Jack Ligot, research director of the Ministry of Culture and of Communications, some of his own thoughts on adding an additional bureau to the new office of the patrimoine, this one dedicated exclusively to overseeing the French ethnological heritage. Chiva’s initiative was not unwelcome. Within the Ministry, Jacques Rigaud, who headed the economics desk, strongly supported the Chiva proposal. Ligot responded by asking Chiva, as had been the case with Soustelle, to participate in a study commission on the question.
On the advice of Ligot, and at the behest of President Giscard d’Estaing, Minister of Culture Jean-Philippe Lecat created such a group. Although Chiva, and Lévi-Strauss, were the prime academic movers supporting the creation of some such office within the new heritage department, there was never any question during the whole of the proceedings that important State questions were at issue. Soustelle was an old companion of Gaullism; he could be trusted. And although Lévi-Strauss had worked well with de Gaulle when he staffed the French cultural service in New York, as a Professor at the Collège de France he possessed a certain amount of independence from political pressures. Lecat appointed someone close to the concerns of the President, Redjem Benzaïd, Inspector General of Finances, and later in his career head of the Institut du Monde Arabe, to chair the inquiry. The major players on questions of French culture were invited to become members. Representatives of the important divisions for music and dance in the Culture Ministry participated, as did the Director of the (largely fine arts) Musées de France, as well as heads of regional ecomuseums, and the folklore museum, the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires (MNATP) in Paris. Important academics in the fields of peasant and popular culture studies also took part.
But why not just confer the task of reorganizing French ethnological studies to the MNATP? One wing of its new building housed France’s biggest CNRS ethnological research center. It was just the standing of the MNATP in the museum world and in ethnological research that stood in the way of the new academic-government coalition. The MNATP had been established to inform urbanites of the lives of their ancestors in the country. The exhibitions of rural life established by its first director Georges-Henri Rivière, whose own thinking had been shaped by the experience of the Popular Front of the mid-1930s, had no « handle » for the soft counterinsurgency the Giscard government had in mind. From the ethnologists’ point of view, even if the research center were expanded, it could not supply the number of posts needed. And then there was the ambiguous legacy of the Vichy years’ interest in the folklore of France. Both Lévi-Strauss and the government wanted to create a new organization which they could shape to their different present purposes.
The ethnology taskforce started its work in October 1978. As it happened, early that month, after a relatively quiet period, the paysans du Larzac, the popular movement to resist the military base expansion in the southwest, had once more begun to escalate their actions. First, fifteen peasants staged a four-day fast in the cathedral of Rodez. In other towns in France, and in other countries — Cologne, Koblenz, and Rome — sympathizers fasted with the people in Rodez. Should events in Rodez have been too far away to be noticed in the capital, a group of nine people, four of them from Larzac, fasted also for four days in the Église Saint-Séverin in the Latin Quarter, just across the Seine from Notre Dame de Paris. Militants from Larzac released ten sheep in the lobby of the Ministry of Agriculture. Then back on the plateau, peasants from all over the département driving one hundred and fifty tractors trespassed on army-owned farms and began to prepare the soil for winter planting.
The harvest, they promised, would go to groups fighting the (French) international commerce in weapons and the world arms race. Five thousand people came to the Larzac to support the action. The 1974 harvest had been dedicated to the Third World. Now in late 1978 the peasants promised some of the profits from the coming harvest to workers in Millau, who, in reaction to the Henfer company’s firing forty-seven of their number, occupied their factory. President Giscard d’Estaing, a man claiming strong roots in the Auvergne, prudently cancelled his planned visit to Rodez.
In the first hours of the committee’s work members received a most curious framing paper by Hugues de Varine of the Culture Ministry. Entitled « La Place des cultures populaires dans la politique nationale d’action culturelle » de Varine pointed out reasonably enough that, « work with popular cultures does not readily fit into any institutional structure, any scientific framework, or any funding policy… » Certainly, a correct starting point: popular and regional cultures, as distinct from the national culture, were indeed diverse and unique. Presumably, their specificities were what needed to be saved. But de Varine proposed that, « in the face of the manifest institutional void, it would seem necessary to integrate the popular cultures within the national cultural policy by creating a policy framework which contained them both ». An office for popular cultures was needed to « develop the norms and the rules... to regulate in uniform fashion the nation-wide effort and to finance projects to save what could be saved in the sectors undergoing rapid transformation ». Above all, activities bearing on the regional and popular cultural heritages — especially « sur le terrain » — needed « organizers to discipline them ».
The two well-known ethnological thinkers who appeared before the panel, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and the former head of the museum of popular arts and traditions, Georges-Henri Rivière, both appeared to warn against the dangers of too much control and of bureaucratic rigidity. Rivière, who had been one of the pioneers of ecomuseums, wanted the efforts in the regions better appreciated and to be allowed to continue unencumbered by administrative handicaps. Clearly, he wanted to protect what he had built from what was being planned to be built. But also, formed intellectually in the Popular Front, he remained a democrat.
Perhaps with different worries in mind, Lévi-Strauss agreed that the activities around the patrimoine ethnologique (not be too hemmed in by « administrative constrains ». He did not want to see official barriers created between the amateurs and the so-called experts working with local heritages. « The guiding rule should be administrative decentralization » he insisted, adding, of course, that « that required a central organ ». As regards the salvage metaphor (le sauvetage ethnologique), which informed the committee’s work, he was skeptical about the possibility of fixing clear scientific criteria for what is worth saving and what not. He preferred paying attention to new cultural inventions and those from the past that were still vital in the lives of people today. This last point was not only a statement of a newly emerging paradigm of ethnologic studies, it was equally in line with Chiva’s plans for a present-minded, hands-on, agency. It was clear that two different agendas were at on the table. But that of the social scientists could only be fulfilled by advancing that of the government. And vice versa.
Two other key heavily contested issues surfaced in the course of the inquiry. Early in the commission’s work, B. Jeannot, of the interministerially-funded office of regional culture grants, the Fonds d’Intervention Culturelle (FIC), raised the question of saving the nation’s industrial heritage (le patrimoine industriel). This was an old complaint about the biased content of French public memory, which the creation of the Musée National des Arts and Traditions Populaires during the Popular Front of the mid-1930s had specifically set out to address. But very little had followed that first important step. Visitors to the MNATP in the Bois de Boulogne (usually school children on a forced march) did not see in the permanent exhibitions much that suggested that France had either industrial workers or specifically urban cultures. Part of the need for the new office, it was understood on the commission, was that the MNATP had never been able to fulfill this aspect of its mandate. Jeannot wanted studies of not just the histories of shutdown factories and of obsolete processes, but also of workers’ memories. He frankly expressed skepticism of both the « notion of salvage archaeology » and of the capacity of traditional ethnology « to deal with the problems of the city and of urban civilization ». He had the support of his (heavily academic) subcommittee on the Inventaire, Education, and Research. When he presented his case before the larger panel he received some support there too, especially from de Varine, the research coordinator of the Culture Ministry. Varine may have thought Jeannot’s a good idea, or may have seen the opportunity for more research projects coming under his aegis, or both. But the urban and industrial heritage remained clearly far less pressing to the mixed committee of educators and government officials — as the final report shows — than the current worries about the troubles in the regions of France.
Chiva and some of the other professional ethnologists on the commission wanted to deal with troubles that came from farther away than Occitania or Brittany. Much like the 3,000 repatriated ex-colonial administrators, the end of the colonial empire had also put many French anthropologists and ethnologists out of work. As Nkrumah’s painting suggested, the new nations no longer welcomed European field workers inquiring into religious practices, or kinship patterns, or new local power arrangements. Western-educated for the most part, the new national leaders did not wish French ethnologists nosing around the old-new postcolonial society, as they had once sought to increase colonial knowledge before independence.
This commission, then, was a structured field of contention, in which, because so much was at stake for each participant, everyone tried to take the strongest possible position. The government had financial resources, but no academic capital. The ethnologists and museum people managed a great deal of cultural capital, but lacked means and institutions to solve pressing professional problems. In particular, Isac Chiva, the specialist on France and Europe in the division of labour at Lévi-Strauss’s atelier, saw the moment as ripe for the refounding of French ethnological studies with himself as principal gatekeeper. The activists of the regionalist movements, who were not at the table but very much in the field, claimed — against both conservative politicians and distressed social scientists — large reserves of popular legitimation.
Within this frame the commission had to find answers to key cultural-political questions. Who would define what was valid in the local heritages? Every aspect of the state — not least the army, the finance ministry, and the President’s office, as, for example, the movement in the Larzac had shown — touched the popular and local culture. How might new relationships between the edges and the center be worked out? Would the involvement of the local with the national continue to be determined in Paris or, rather, in Larzac, or Arles, or Toulouse, or Rennes, or indeed in Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe or Nouméa, New Caledonia? Not many years before (from 1954 to 1962) in Algeria, this question had been posed. There it had been resolved by force. That and other recent independence struggles which had gone against Paris were very much on the minds of both radical regionalists and the policy makers planning a new ethnological policy for France. Not that anyone (at least anyone in government) could even imagine the amputation of any of the regions contained in the hexagon. But in the late 1970s, the deciders of France had recognized that the forces for local self-determination were real, popular, and irresistible.
Employing the arguments and even the wording of Isac Chiva’s draft text of February, the committee submitted its final report to the government in September 1979. The findings skillfully plotted a curve which passed through the different interests represented on the panel. With each player guaranteed a bit of turf in the field, the conservative government could exercise its hegemonic project to take away regionalism and the discourse of a capitalist-caused world-we-have-lost from the left.
The preface promised the government a set of proposals which would be spelled out in the body of the report for carrying out « an emergency ethnology ». To help the lay readers understand the scope of the impending cultural tragedy, the report began by evocating just a few dramatic instances of how an historic France was disappearing. The 14,000 pieces of country furniture carefully inventoried by field researchers from Georges-Henri Rivière’s folklore museum between 1941 and 1946, had been scattered and sold off, and with their disappearance was lost much evidence of regional material culture. The loss of so much of this part of the patrimoine — old furniture — would certainly have made the grand bourgeois readers of the report in the Giscard government shiver. There remained scant systematic knowledge of the life and way of working of the nineteenth-century silk workers of Lyon, the Canuts. The transnational society of semi-nomadic fisherfolk of the South was gone. From the early nineteenth century, this itinerant community of mixed populations, but with a shared fisher-culture, had moved along the Mediterranean littoral from Spain to France and then Italy, and back again, following the movements of the schools of fish. This unique community was now disbanded. The accumulated knowledge of the medicinal qualities of local plants all over France was being lost. Cutting down the hedges in Brittany and Normandy to permit the use of modern farm machines had destroyed historic ecologies. And, in general, the conservationist wisdom of our ancestors everywhere in France was being lost with the forced draft modernization of the countryside.
But, amidst the ruins of the deserted villages, the authors of the report saw some signs for hope. The depopulation of the countryside was stimulating the birth of a new awareness among the remaining better-educated, better connected to the outside world, provincial population.
In the light both of the urgency of the task and the growing national awareness of the need for action, the Chiva committee addressed two top issues: the importance of immediately putting salvage ethnology to work, and that of addressing this new coming to consciousness of the people of some of the regions. For this second concern, the reporters took care to protect themselves from accusations of political partisanship: any specifically political projects or consequences, the report insisted, that might follow from findings about a rising regional consciousness — how could they not? —, went beyond the scope of the work of the scientific researchers.
The project of the academics converged most clearly with that of the politicians in setting as a major goal of future work that of stopping what the report termed « the pseudo-scientific illusion of a spontaneous ethnology that individuals and groups might carry out on themselves by themselves ». Certainly, as Eric Hobsbawm, Terence Ranger, and their co-authors have demonstrated, a lot of « revived » nationalisms or regionalisms deployed invented traditions. But since traditions qualifying to their heritors as authentic were also one time invented, or deliberately frozen and canonized as the tradition, the source of concern for what the report calls l’ethnologie sauvage needs elucidation.
The phrase is richly overdetermined. A part of what was meant here was the way the regionalist intellectuals of the 1970s were loudly indicting the state’s acts of historical and present-day oppression — for example, the Albigensian Crusade, the diminution of local languages as in the southwest and of local religious usages as in Brittany, of the suppression of Corsican liberties, and the regionalists’ resistance to the extension of the military base at Larzac. But ethnologie sauvage does not refer to a rival body of « scientific » theory. Rather the phrase devalues an activity by regionalist political actors which the « real » scientists find both professionally and politically unacceptable. Ethnological studies should be left to scientifically-trained and politically-non partisan specialists, educated and sent from Paris, of course. Political partisanship in the social sciences, as we know, is always the work of others, never us. The former investigators of colonial cultures and their students waited in the wings to do it right.
The Chiva commission collected data on whether there were enough professional ethnologists currently working in France to do the work needing to be done in the regions of France. A questionnaire sent to 400 institutions and 350 individuals by the commission’s staff yielded responses which painted a bleak picture of the inadequacy of a poorly trained staff for the work the new ethnological initiative called forth. The survey revealed too many different people, with inadequate or improper training working at cross-purposes. In other cases, they found individuals doing the same or similar work as others, but each unaware of the other’s project. Not only was there duplication, but the contrary was also true. Whole areas and important topics were being ignored. There were relatively few trained ethnologists working at posts in their discipline. Of the seventy university teachers with ethnological training who sent in answers, most held appointments in other social science disciplines. One even worked as a pharmacologist. Only about fifteen of them taught the ethnology of France, « although by their own admission, their specialities were societies outside of France » (p. 19). To this poor showing in higher education, the reporters could add only a little more than twenty museum curators working on French ethnology/folklore. Everywhere, but especially in Alsace and Lorraine, in the East and Brittany, in the West and the Midi, local amateur societies were doing work which ran the gamut from the more serious weekend and summer researchers to the vast number of hobbyists of the archaic.
And then, there were the under-utilized talents: « about fifty ethnologists, for the most part young, working under precarious conditions of employment, with no formal job titles in their organizations » (p. 19). In the past ten years, the CNRS had been able to offer only a total of eight posts to ethnologists specializing on metropolitan France (p. 32).
As to topics which interested the respondents to the questionnaire, the local material culture (housing, tools, costumes) led the list, followed by the study of the social system (kinship, sociability, the history of local power and authority), and then the symbolic system (music, local religious and ritual practices, oral traditions). The reporters were disappointed in not finding much interest expressed in new cultural invention, « the modern, or just emerging heritage ». Most investigators reported studying rural and/or preindustrial cultures. No one was studying urban artisans, workers or industrial activities, nor, « in general any social and cultural forms of urban life » (p. 22). The reporters also found no interest in the study of « problems of ethnicity », « collective identity », or « cultural pluralism ». No one was studying community norms of equity and justice, what already in the 1960s, E.P. Thompson in Britain had called, « the moral economy » of the rural poor. Popularly used medical plants and practices had found no students. Nor was anyone investigating local conservation and ecological practices. The reporters urged that these omissions be made good.
The research topics reported currently underway were unevenly distributed geographically, as well. Of the 450 ongoing projects inventoried in 1979, 120 concentrated on the Midi (the Pyrénées, the Côte d’Azur, and Corsica), while another 50 focused on the valley of the Rhône and the Maritime Alps. Less than 60 were dedicated to the West (Brittany, Normandy, the Loire), only about thirty to Lorraine, Alsace, and Franche-Comté, 20 on the Paris area, and a mere 60 on the vast region of the Center encompassing the Auvergne, Poitou-Charentes, the Limousin, and Burgundy. « Here too, we see a marked research interest in Southern France [the country of the Occitan movement], while the North, the Center, and the West of France are relatively ignored [déserté] » (p. 23).
The most critical deficiency noted, however, was the lack of teaching posts and research aids for ethnology. There was no professorial chair anywhere in France dedicated to the study of ethnology of metropolitan France. And only about a dozen institutions of higher learning in the whole of the country even offered programs of study on the subject. Too much of the research that was accomplished remained, for all practical purposes, invisible. In the last five years, students had written literally hundreds of masters and doctoral thesis on ethnological topics, but had done so in programs or in ways not easily accessible by other interested researchers. Most had not even been published (pp. 24-25).
Just a few weeks after the ethnologists had delivered their report to president Giscard, the peasants of Larzac offered him a reading aid. This time, he was visiting Rodez and, on the 13th of November, dinning with friends at one of the good restaurants in the center of town. Across the street from the restaurant, in the Maison de l’Agriculture, fourteen peasants were in the second day of a week-long hunger strike. The peasants waved their banners and their supporters hooted him when Giscard went in to eat. Once the President was safely at his table, some of the other diners turned their plates upside down as a sign of protest and criticism. This was surely a presidential dinner finishing with anti-acid pills.
Ethnology is a sensitive subject capable of distortion in the wrong hands, the reporters emphasized. It is guided by methods requiring carefully trained field workers. « So we cannot allow the development of a [competing] ethnologie sauvage » (p. 27). To begin with, we have to get the attention of « the vast public ». No one knows what « ethnology » is. We have to speak of our work as « popular arts and traditions », as « popular cultures » or the discipline concerned with saving « the heritage ».
As it happened, those were often just the words that radical regionalists were using in their efforts to rally the people to reclaim lost or suppressed local practices of liberty and justice. To fight unscholarly distortions such as these, the Chiva report called for mobilizing the modern electronic and print media in all ways possible to tell the right stories of the present and past of the regions. « The participation of ethnologists in the preparation of such programs is indispensable for avoiding the clichés of the folkloric and the typical [and the thing-not-said, of leftist regionalists] » (p. 28).
With so many trained ethnologists « who find themselves obliged to reconvert [from studying societies in the colonies] » there were enough good people for new tasks. There is much to be gained « by refocusing on the French field ». Leading researchers (CNRS) who have up to now specialized on « extra European civilizations » are becoming increasingly aware of the need to reorient the discipline. We should facilitate « intensive retraining programs [stages] as well as provide funding for continuing education » (p. 33). But most immediately important for the success of an « emergency ethnology », is ethnologists’ « establishing new relationships within the groups with whom they work » (...) « Aid to the new ethnological project would include activities, which, although not in themselves exclusively scientific, aimed at conserving and valorizing an ethnological heritage », which these new kinds of relationships make possible. Appropriately, the new staff would be called « ethnology councilors » [conseillers pour l’ethnologie].
« One can very well imagine the profile of an ethnologist-as-educator and even an ethnologist-as-animator. It was to be someone whose idea of research implies the restitution of cultural objects, of well-considered interventions in local and regional cultural activities, and of frank openness to the projects originating from the local population when ordinary people seek new uses for the data they have gathered collectively ». Especially in the regions where the « current quest for identity is most militant [très vive], it is this strategy that will empower us to refute with their own weapons [de soi-même] these rampaging regionalist with their ethnologie sauvage, [these agitators] who contest serious ethnologic research by using their local knowledge to fabricate unfounded charges of the theft of the regional heritage » (p. 39).
Local amateurs should be courted for their support. Their collaboration with us would ease « resolving the sometimes delicate problems that crop up in the course of ethnological fieldwork » (p. 51).
« Because of the widespread passion for ethnology today », the final report continued, « we often see a certain contradiction between ethical, ideological, and even political demands and motives which translate local initiatives to get back their disappearing culture and the minimal obligations of science: quality control of the research, guarantees of the conservation and analyses of cultural objects and documents, and the inalienability of collections. It would be simpler for a group not directly tied to the State to see to it that these obligations are honored, as well as to coordinate those complicated tasks that can be at the same time scientific, cultural, and administrative which need local participation, need a populist echo. In particular, such a non-State organ would be in a better position to organize a rapid intervention on its own to prevent some cultural harm, since it could count on the active support of local people » (p. 51).
Gramsci, himself, could not have better described the role that French political leaders saw for their organic intellectuals in the 1970s cultural-political guerilla warfare in the French regions. While commonly dismissing Marxism as so much bad political rhetoric, the deciders of France were intelligent enough to appropriate its best ideas. The commissioners even envisioned organizing a kind of « democratic centralism ». Amateurs would work with trained ethnologists on the ground. « These “cells” (sic) would work out procedures to organize the research and intervention, the training and control [encadrer] of qualified workers » (p. 52). Six regional centers were targeted for immediate attention: le Midi pyrénéen, la Provence, la Bretagne, la région Rhône-Alpes, l’Alsace et la Franche-Comté. Brittany, in the northeast, had perhaps the most powerful leftist regionalist movement in France. The advocates of the recognition of an Occitan identity in the Midi (the Southwest, Provence, and the Southeast) were not far behind the Bretons. Alsace, whose citizens had had to change their passports five times in the past hundred years, in 1944 once more had become French territory. How could it not have regional identity problems? And the Franche-Comté, once belonging to the House of Savoy, had been French for only about a hundred years. Interestingly, Corsica was not on the list. It has always been seen as a special region, with unique problems of its own, an island more often seen as the concern of the national police than of cultural anthropologists. Nor, despite the often violent militancy of Corsican nationalists, is there any trace of any positive efforts on their part, nor that of the government, to save the historic culture of the island. In each region, one of the professionals would serve as a « permanent regional correspondent », reporting to a new office for the ethnological heritage (Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique) within the Ministry of Culture and Communication in Paris. An unusual concession for a State agency, the Direction was in turn to be overseen by a Conseil du Patrimoine Ethnologique made up of social scientists with positions outside the ministry and cultural administrators. Chiva would take his seat as its first director.
On the completion of their work, President Giscard d’Estaing graciously had the members of the commission to diner at the Elysée Palace. Historian François Furet had also been invited. At table, he launched into an attack on the ethnology project, asserting that historians were fully capable of doing all the scholarship the ethnologists were claiming as their new field of work. The new initiatives proposed in the report, he argued, were unnecessary. In view of the still unformed state of French domestic ethnological studies, Furet, then head of the still new and resource-hungry Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, may not have been wrong, at least intellectually. From the time of Marc Bloch’s brilliant treatments of medieval society, the Annales group had always shown interest in anthropological questions and theory. But saving the discipline of ethnology, by putting it in the service of the state’s need to combat cultural dissidents, was not about the best way to do scholarship. Historians rummaged in archives; ethnologists went into the field and dealt with people.
There could have been another way of integrating new ethnological knowledge. The new office for the patrimoine might have been attached to the folklore museums and/or its research center. To the distress of that institution’s staff too, it was not. The refounding of domestic ethnology as a state project, as outlined in the Benzaïd/Chiva Report, went ahead.
At the same August 1978 meeting of the Council of Ministers which had created the new office for the French heritage in the Ministry of Culture, President Giscard d’Estaing announced that 1980 would be the Year of the Heritage. It was for Minister of Culture Jean-Philippe Lecat to launch the discourse and to organize the celebrations and it was mainly the task of the new office for the cultural heritage to coordinate the year’s activities. In addition, during that Année du Patrimoine, the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique and its governing Conseil du Patrimoine were created within the Culture Ministry. At no time in the official Année du Patrimoine were the traditions, or even the existence, of the millions of immigrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa mentioned. As the Year’s planners understood the term, the new immigrants were peoples without heritages.
In 1981 a coalition of the left, dominated by the Socialist party, swept both the legislative elections and put François Mitterrand into the Presidency. Both the will and the means were now at hand for redirecting the search for France’s enduring cultural heritage. The sense of new possibilities filled so many hearts. In the first exercise of the new government, the Ministry of Culture had its budget doubled. Jack Lang took the Ministry of Culture and Communications, and the spotlight. Like others on the left, he had distrusted the whole heritage campaign of the Right. He immediately initiated important policy changes at the three years old Direction du Patrimoine. The change in policy took three forms. One was a change in the policy orientation of the heritage agency. Another brought changes in personnel. The third created a new, alternative, body to deal with the ethnological heritage.
As the extent of left’s swept became manifest, the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique quickly refocused its field of interest. The office had served as a tool for keeping an eye on the troublemakers in the regions while pumping Parisian high culture into the countryside, and encouraging the tourist trade as a depression-fighting measure. Now, with a new government, the just-created office for ethnology would have more freedom to investigate and to fund what the social scientists thought important, and maybe too what they thought the Socialist government might find interesting.
Just before the elections, when the polls were predicting an overwhelming victory of the left coalition, the Mission issued its first call for new research projects to fund. A new request for proposals invited applicants to investigate hitherto ignored topics. By the July 1981 deadline 140 proposals had come in. Once more, investigators showed little interest in the politically quiet parts of France: the Auvergne, the Center, Champagne-Ardennes, Limousin, Lorraine, the Loire, Picardie. Not even Paris attracted ethnological researchers much. With the colonies closed to them, the Midi became the prime destination. Of the total projects submitted, 48 survived the first cut.
The Mission had mandated four major research areas: family and kinship, popular medications and cures, old industrial sites and technical knowledge, and the ethnology of urban life. The first one had surely been offered in deference to Lévi-Strauss and Isac Chiva. Since Lévi-Strauss’s great book on kinship, Les Structures élémentaires de la parenté, the topic had been a special concern of the Laboratory of Social Anthropology at the Collège de France. It could have been chosen, as well, because it was a good transitional topic for fieldworkers who not so long ago had been trying to understand populations in Madagascar, Africa or Algeria by studying their kinship systems. Folk medicine was both interesting and not much studied; the Chiva report had urged more work on it. The last two topics, industrial ethnology and city life, were renewals of the disrupted progressive social science of the Popular Front of nearly a half-century before.
Only fourteen projects could be funded. But studies of industrial and of urban ethnology together totaled more than half of the supported projects, respectively six and three. Popular medical practices won three slots. With only one award, kinship studies did not fare well. The fourteenth project worked in several areas so was not readily classifiable.
Ethnology can be a science more dismal even than economics. Postcolonial ethnologists most interesting research project submitted in the first, 1981, requests for proposals was that of a team led by Gérard Noiriel, then teaching history at a local lycée. Working under the academic umbrella of labor historian Yves Lequin, the social science graduate students, local history buffs, and workers brought together by Noiriel proposed to study the culture of the miners and steelworkers of the Longwy basin of Lorraine. Here, as Noiriel and his team found, ethnicity — Italian and Polish-Ukrainian — played an undeniably important role in the story of the workers of Longwy. Their research in Longwy changed the historians of the working class. After turning in the final report of the study in 1983, Gérard Noiriel, for example, went on to become one of France’s most innovative and most important historians of the immigrant population.
Right after the new lines of social investigations were defined, Elizabeth Lévy (Elizabeth Fleury), now head of the ethnology office under the just elected (May) socialist government, had spelled out the change in direction in a note to the staff on her philosophy of ethnology. Lévy wished to guide researchers in changing their way of relating to the communities in which they worked. It was no longer acceptable that « the greatest number of professional ethnologists continue the tradition of the independent researcher, a law unto himself in the gathering and analysis of the data. A [new] methodology which takes as its central principle « giving the culture back to the people » [le retour] to the population studied, is incompatible with this conception ». She wanted to see research « with » combined with research « on ». The « give back » was to have the research and its results shared with the local population for their own uses. As the director of the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique in the Culture Ministry, Lévy could scarcely endorse the ethnologie sauvage of the regionalists. The policy shift she proposed pointed in a more culturally democratic direction, even if it remained a guided democracy.
In addition to a new director, the socialist government appointed ten additional members of the Conseil du Patrimoine. As it happened, these new people were sufficient in numbers to outvote the sitting members, many of whose terms would not expire very soon. The Mission’s next call for papers, in 1983, asked for research proposals on regional belonging and cultural identity. The political reorientation of the agency was well underway.
Jack Lang had a larger project in mind than just directing the work of the ethnology office in a new direction. And he had just had his budget doubled, to the dreamt of magical 1% of the total state budget. After a change in government, the administrative staff of a French agency does not turn over in massive numbers, as is the case in the United States. This is the usually-given reason for stability in French government policies despite often big, and in certain periods, frequent, changes of the political leadership. It is also the reason for why old policies often remain stubbornly in effect, despite a different political will at the top. But it was not difficult immediately to get the agency Lang inherited to include the culture of workers and of city life as part of its area of concern. These reorientations had already been prefigured in the discussions of the Chiva committee, even if they were only sketched in the recommendations to the government. But Lang also wanted to address the deeper perplexities of devising a cultural strategy for the regions and for the hitherto excluded ethnic groups in the making of a modern, progressive, and tolerant France.
For that he needed his own team. On taking office, he created within his ministry a rival body to the office of ethnology. He named Henri Giordan, head of the CNRS laboratory on Intercultural Research, chief of this new Conseil des Cultures et des Langues Régionales. He asked Giordan to make recommendations to him for moving France beyond the Popular Front’s ideal (which, as minister of cultural affaires, Malraux had put back on the table) of « democraticizing the culture ». Lang wanted to go further, to begin to build a « cultural democracy ».
The first was essentially André Malraux’s old idea of fostering greater accessibility to the culture for all strata of the population and all regions of the country. Imagine the inkblot of high culture spreading slowly from Paris outwards to all the borderlands, slowly soaking the whole nation. When the taint reached the edges the whole surface would be of one color, of one culture.
Lang asked Giordan to find ways of guaranteeing to all citizens « the fundamental freedom to live their cultural differences ». Of course, he wished to continue to honor and to protect the historic heritage. But, in the long term, he wanted the new cultural policy to construct in each region « an original cultural space, a language-culture ensemble ».
Very much on the same wavelength as Lang, Giordan also wanted to change the Paris-centered elitist course that Malraux had charted when, in the early 1960s, he created the ministry of cultural affairs. Giordan declared his goals directly in the title of his recommendations to Lang, « Démocratie culturelle et droit à la difference ». Actually — also like Lang — Giordan was trying to straddle two diverging ideals each with many committed adherents in the Socialist camp.
To put the divergences most strongly, the socialist party and much of the nation divided over including everyone in the culture of the nation or honoring differences. Certainly, people found intermediary positions but the two ideals set the horizon of the thinkable — more about this dilemma in a moment. Giordan declared the so-called « decentralization » of the past a fraud. « The policy of decentralization in effect since 1959 [the year Malraux took office] has essentially distributed cultural goods in the regions which were made outside the regions. It was this practice which caused the [strategy of seeding the country with] Houses of Culture to fail ». The old cultural policy favored cultural diffusion from the center. It refused to build the infrastructure and provide the means which would have empowered the population to enrich its own culture.
Consider the example of theater policy, the art form most favored by the ministry in the past, but which draws only a small and elitist public. When Paris wanted to do something in a region, « it concerned itself more with the choice of the creators it could implant in this region, than with an attentive assessment of what local initiatives might have been possible. This way of decentralizing the theater… has had as its premier effect, to abort the developing local troupes ». Local elites played along; they still looked to Paris for their culture. So, for a real democratic decentralization to succeed, we have to foster a « decolonization of mentalités ». Note Giordan’s deployment of the metaphors of empire and colony: local theater troupes « in the process of development », the need for « decolonizing mentalities ». In the 1970s « empire » and « imperialism », « colony » and « colonialism », passed into the armory of metaphors of the critics of the really existing domestic culture. In Giordan, these code words played on a more radical not-said: that he favored aid to the regions to throw off the cultural yoke of local collaborators with Paris (labelled in the contemporary dependency theory as the comprador bourgeoisie) with the larger purpose of breaking the colonial grip of Paris itself.
Giordan urged Lang to go beyond attending to just the people of the regions. In a passing remark, Jacques Soustelle had momentarily plucked the many millions of ethnic minorities in France out of their invisibility because, in his eyes, hidden in unexplored obscurity, they — at least the north and black Africans — posed a threat of disorder or subversion. But Giordan wished them recognized to honor their difference. « Up to 10 May 1981 [date of the Socialist electoral victory] of all the countries of Western Europe, France has been the most stubbornly deaf to the growing wants of the linguistic and cultural minority populations living in the nation ». A state both blind and deaf to the needs of large parts of the population was shameful. An immediate change of course was necessary.
In 1789 France had established the right to « political citizenship ». After the Liberation in 1944 this right was made universal with votes for women. France was now working on insuring « social citizenship » for all. « Passing from the elitist idea of culture to a conception which takes in the whole of the social person, and inventing the means collectively to guide the cultural apparatus, including the environment [was] to lay the first stones of the edifice of cultural citizenship ».
The jobs created and funds authorized by Giscard seemed on their way to working. And the recognition and cooptation of the regionalist movements by the enthusiastic new left government of 1981 had effectively demobilized the regionalists. After being elected president, Mitterrand dropped the military base expansion, and enhanced the funding for regional projects. There was a consequent lose of energy in most of the regionalist movements. In addition, Chiva, who was born in Rumania, understood that new fields of research were waiting in the new Europe, both within the European Community and in the East. He urged that the discipline gear up for this new space for fieldwork.
By 1983 Lang began dismantling the apparatus he had inherited from the conservatives for supervising and controlling the regionalist movements. In January, he created consultative bodies [Collèges] chosen locally to review architectural sites. He also mandated the creation of new Commissions for the historical archaeological, and ethnologic heritages of the regions. These bodies replaced the appointed regional committees of the Inventaire as well as the departmental offices left by the Giscard government. This local ethnology policy he ordered dissolved in July of the same year. The next year he had a « cellule » on the industrial heritage of France created in the Patrimoine office of the ministry. And in 1985, he eclipsed Soustelle’s initiative with his own Conseil supérieur de la recherche archéologique. Gone now was the elaborate regional « culture watch » of the conservative government.
The stress to grapes caused by tough environmental conditions yields the most complex and tastiest of wines. So too, difficult cultural moments yield richer harvests of ideas than easy times. The story of the postcolonial crisis of regional ethnology, we see, is good to think with. In following it, we have traversed major issues — most of them by no means settled — being contested in the French public sphere. The creation of the Mission du Patrimoine was an important intervention in the continuing debates in France on centralization and decentralization, cultural invention and democracy, social solidarity and cultural diversity, and on regional France in a new global setting. Yet the study of origins is not always the best guide to future development. Once founded and, in the decades of the 1980s and 1990s operating in new settings in a changing nation, the Mission du Patrimoine played an important role in mediating a new creative turn for regional ethnology in France.
BLANCHARD Pascal et BANCEL Nicolas, 1998, De l’indigène à l’immigré, Paris : Gallimard.
BOURDIEU Pierre, 1976, « Le mal de voir : ethnologie et orientalisme, politique et épistémologie, critique et autocritique », Cahiers de Jussieu, 2.
FABRE Magali, 2000, La lutte du Larzac (1971-1981) : L’exemple d’une lutte sociale originale et novatrice, mémoire de maîtrise d’histoire contemporaine, Université Versailles-Saint-Quentin en Yvelines.
GIORDAN Henri, 1982, Démocratie culturelle et droit à la différence, rapport présenté à M. Jack Lang, Ministre de la Culture et pour la commission des cultures régionales et minoritaires.
LEBOVICS Herman, 1992, True France: the wars over cultural identity, 1900-1945, Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
LEBOVICS Herman, 2004, Bringing the empire back home: France in the global age, Raleigh, NC: Duke University Press.
LEQUIN Yves, 1980, « Givors, les ambiguïtés du changement », Archives de l’observation du changement social et culturel, 2.
MOREL Alain, 2001, « L’ethnologie : la Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique », Culture et recherche, 87, pp. 4-5.
GALTHUNG Johan, 1967, « After Camelot » in Horowitz Irving Louis (ed.), The rise and fall of project Camelot; studies in the relation between social science and practical politics, Cambridge.
GODELIER Maurice, 2000, « Is social anthropology still worth the trouble? A response to some echoes from America », Ethnos, 65, pp. 301-316.
SAPIRO Gisèle, 1999, La guerre des écrivains, 1940-1953, Paris : Fayard.
WEIL Patrick, 2002, Qu’est-ce qu’un français ? Histoire de la nationalité française de la Révolution à nos jours, Paris : Grasset.
 This was the real title of a real book published in 1940 by the great men of British structural-functionalism, E.E. Evans-Pritchard and Meyer-Fortes. In the increasingly self-assertive years of the colonized societies following World War II, British anthropology, with its twin interests in kinship patterns and political systems, dominated the discipline. The concerns of researchers, on the one side, and the need for smooth, peaceful, and above all, culture-specific, British colonial administrative systems, on the other, shows the same convergence of interests we find in the case of French overseas ethnology and colonial administration. The theoretical apparatuses differ a bit. See Maurice Godelier (2000). The painting is described in Johan Galtung (1967). In a delightful conversation with me, Pierre Kipré, of the École Normale Supérieure d’Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, confirmed the existence of the painting, which he had seen in the room on the occasions when he visited the chief of state.
 Isac Chiva, speaking autobiographically at a seminar of the Comité d’Histoire of the Ministry of Culture, Paris, 4 June 2002.
 Attribution of motives is always risky business for historians. With this warning to the reader, I propose that Rigaud, a longtime active member of the French Communist Party, might have been just as disturbed as Chiva and Giscard by the ultra leftist goings-on — Leftist Christians, Maoists, Trotskyists, Michel Rocard’s PSU, ecologists, and hippies in the regionalist movements of provincial France. What is certain is that the PCF stayed clear of them in the 70s, and in some case — for example, Larzac — criticized them.
 Although there were a number of proposals for action on the cultural heritage already in the 1975 planning drafts of the Commission de la Recherche of the VIIème Plan, these never entered the final budget.
 See Lecat’s lettre de Mission of 28 December 1978 to Benzaïd as reproduced in Annexe 1, 56, of the final report. Groupe de travail sur le patrimoine ethnologique, « Rapport sur l’ethnologie de la France : besoins et projets », Ministère de la Culture et Communication, septembre 1979, mimeographed.
 Isac Chiva, seminar of the Comité d’Histoire of the Ministry of Culture, Paris 4 June 2002. A personal motive may have played a role. Chiva was a likely successor to Georges-Henri Rivière as director of the Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires. But was not named. The creation of the Mission du Patrimoine in the Ministry of Culture, which he would dominate as the head of its scientific council, gave him a competing base of operations, and a budget from the State.
 On Rivière, see Lebovics, 1992, chaps 4 and 5.
 Gardarem lo Larzac, March 1978.
 Hugues de Varine, « La Place des cultures populaires dans la politique nationale d’action culturelle : première ébauche d’une analyse du problème et propositions de solutions » in the dossier Création de la Mission, 1979, 1980, 1981, 14-18. Archives of the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique. De Varine’s italics. Hereafter, until noted otherwise, the memos, minutes of meetings, and report drafts cited are from this dossier.
 Groupe de travail patrimoine ethnologique, hearings chaired by R. Benzaïd, « Entretien avec Georges-Henri Rivière » (19 Feb. 1979), « Entretien avec Claude Lévi-Strauss » (28 Feb. 1979).
 Groupe de travail patrimoine ethnologique, compte-rendu de la réunion plénière du 12 février 1979, 1-2.
 Benoît De l’Estoile, talk at the New York University Institute of French Studies Conference dedicated to the theme of métissage, 1 April 2001.
 A leading historian of regional and rural France, Le Roy Ladurie, had been invited to participate, but apparently he expected little of value to come from the commission. The minutes show him to have absented himself from all sessions.
 Isac Chiva, oral memoirs given at a seminar of the Comité d’Histoire, Ministry of Culture, Paris, 4 June 2002. In the years 1977-79 there was no real discipline of ethnology in France, he remembered, just the MNATP. Such a judgment, of course, depends very much on one’s point of view. There were revues, courses, and professors. The research arm of the MNATP was at work producing and publishing studies.
 It is important to understand these different forces as distinct and which each its own agenda and specific capital holdings. The capital of each is not reducible nor subsumable to those of the others, although bargains could be struck between, for example, between actors with lots of money and political authority and those with no money but abundant academic legitimacy. For a brilliant example of the value of such a theoretical model, see most recently, Gisèle Sapiro’s study of how writers and publishing houses in France in the Vichy years employed their cultural prestige to gain concessions and privileges from the new government (Sapiro 1999).
 In an interview with the author, Elizabeth Fleury who had worked in the Ministry of Culture in the years 1975-1988, in the 1980s as head of the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique, confirmed the government’s fear of the new regionalist movements, and their desire for an agency to track, and possibly to disarm, their activities. Interview, Paris 3 November 1988.
 Isac Chiva, « Le Domaine et les moyens d’une politique du patrimoine ethnologique de la France : quelques propositions », February 1979, mimeographed. Distributed to other members as a draft for the pre-report to the Minister. Compte-rendu de la réunion plénière du 12 mars 1979 of the Groupe de Travail, 5. Carton 25, dossier Secrétariat du Conseil du Patrimoine Ethnologique. Versement 99V64 de mai 1999 to the Archives Nationales at Fontainebleau.
 « L’Ethnologie de la France : besoins et projets. Rapport du groupe de travail sur le patrimoine ethnologique » (Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, septembre 1979). In the pages that follow, references to the text of the report will be given as page numbers in parentheses.
 The social scientists who worked on the report admitted as much. In view of the ever-renewing nature of living cultures the text expressed skepticism about the real possibility of carrying out an « ethnologie de sauvetage »: « On peut même douter, à la limite, qu’une telle démarche ait une base épistémologique » (p. 16).
 Magali Fabre tells the story (Fabre, 2000: 98).
 I owe this insight to Anne-Marie Thiesse, the leading scholar of regionalist cultures in France. After reading all the materials from the six corners of France about preserving or fighting to revive the lost Breton, Occitan, Alsacean, etc., cultures, she was surprised not to find any such language being used by nationalists in twentieth-century Corsica. Where there were allusions to language and local practices — as during World War I —, it was usually Italian propaganda. Italy has often cast a longing look at the island, which after all, people speak a dialect of Tuscan. Perhaps the Corsican nationalists felt that their culture was alive and well; only the French efforts to subvert had to stop.
 Recollections of Isac Chiva on the origins of the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique before the Groupe de Travail on Histoire des politiques du patrimoine of the Comité d’Histoire of the Ministry of Culture, 4 June 2002. See also the report of Alain Morel, responsible for research in the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique, writing in the internal research newsletter of the Ministry of Culture (Morel 2001).
 Discours sur l’Année du Patrimoine du Ministre de la Culture et Communication Jean-Philippe Lecat à l’Académie des Beaux-arts, 10 October 1980, mimeographed copy, Archives du Centre de Documentation du Département des Études et de la Prospective of the Ministry of Culture, 13 pp.
 See further on the discovery of the immigrants, Blanchard and Bancel, De l’Indigène à l’immigré.
 When over twenty years later, in 2003 the beleagured Algerian government tried to cultivate some good will among the French and the Algerians living in France by declaring the year The Year of Algeria in France, many Berbers and their supporters on both sides of the Mediterranean denounced the lame effort as « une opération de marketing ». Artists of Berbers (Kaybles) background living in France boycotted the nearly 2,000 franco-Algerian events. Many of them performed in the alternative « Année de l’Algerie Off ». So difficult has it become to manage official heritage shows in our media savvy age.
 Lequin had done a pioneering local study of workers’culture which was initially — until they modified the scheme for the specificity of their area — the model for the Longwy group (Lequin 1980).
 Gérard Noiriel, « Recherches sur la « Culture ouvrière » dans le Bassin de Longwy : Rapport effectué pour la Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique (Ministère de la Culture). Appel d’offre du 30/4/1981 » (n.p. 1983), photocopied text, 2, 4, 18, 32, 60, 88-114, 116, 177-83, 188. There is a copy in the library of the Paris Maison des Sciences de l’Homme.
 Elizabeth Lévy, « Patrimoine ethnologique : bilan et perspectives » Folder, Création de la Mission, 1979, 1980, 1981, 23 p., the quotation is on pp. 19-20. For good measure, she announced dropping Le Roy Ladurie, appointed by the previous government, from Council of scholars of the office and replace him by Heritier of the ATP and adding Gérard Althabe of the EHESS (in effect, the Socialists’ think-tank), one of the few publishing senior urban ethnologists in the country (p. 22). The industrial heritage was given its own agency in 1984, as the « cellule du patrimoine industriel » within the Sous-Direction de l’Inventaire.
 Daniel Fabre, « La Politique de l’ethnologie du Ministère de la Culture depuis les années soixante-dix », talk given to the groupe de travail sur l’Histoire des politiques du patrimoine, Comité d’Histoire du Ministère de la Culture, 15 April 2002. Statement by him in posttalk discussion.
 Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique. « Recherche scientifique, 1980-1981. Compte-rendu des recherches engagés, 18 August 1981 », aide mémoire in the folder, Création de la Mission, 1979, 1980, 1981 in the archives of the Mission. Employed at the Culture Ministry since 1975 and Head of the Mission du Patrimoine Ethnologique from 1986-1988, Elizabeth Fleury confirmed this shift in research focus, and its persistence to the mid-80s, when the office’s interest shifted to the « savoir-faire » of artisans. Interview with author, Paris, 3 Nov. 1988.
 Interview of Elisabeth Fleury with the author, Paris, 3 Nov. 1988.
 Jack Lang, « Lettre de mission à Henri Giordan », appendix to Giordan’s report (Giordan 1982).
 In the same spirit, at the end of a conference held at Jussieu in 1974, Pierre Bourdieu had called for « decolonizing sociology » (Bourdieu 1975).
 Giordan, 1982, pp. 35-36, 58-59, 129-31. All italics mine. There is of course another dimension of citizenship that is not being addressed in Giordan, that of legal citizenship for the many living in France with the no legal status. On this story see the excellent study by Patrick Weil (2002).
 Meanwhile he kept the Conseil du Patrimoine Ethnologique in place and renewed Chiva’s appointment as its chair. Reforms in the French government are hard to do. The easiest path is to create either a new layer or new bodies. « Discours d’ouverture de Monsieur le Ministre [Lang] at the new session of the Conseil du Patrimoine Ethnologique, 6 Dec. 1984 ». Carton 25, dossier « Secrétariat du Conseil du Patrimoine Ethnologique ». Versement 99V64 de mai 1999 to the Archives Nationales at Fontainbleau.