Research theme 3 : the dynamics of alterity : representations and governance of cultural and religious groups

Theme three studies alterity, particularly in communities, as a changing and dynamic construct that calls into play various categorizations and circulations. These serve as mirrors of the society or institution that produced them, and their complexity warrants a multidisciplinary approach that is particularly sensitive to issues of discourse, perception and the social imaginary.

Construction of the other and construction of the self

This theme is firmly transdisciplinary, at the crossroads between literary studies, history and civilizationist studies. It examines the construction of figures of alterity primarily in the political and social constructions resulting from Atlantic exchanges. The first subject studied will be the imaginaries of the Other: mythical, genealogical, and racial constructions of otherness. In particular, we will explore the multiple types of representations created when encountering otherness, which may be embodied in peoples, communities, and various groups. Research will address the mythologizing of otherness, the way the Other is portrayed in educational policies, and the promotion of the mythical roots of peoples, cultures, and civilizations. Mirroring this discourse on otherness, we also need to study the political construction of communities, starting with the legal aspects that raise questions about citizenship. To this must be added the dynamics of mythological and literary constructions, with their political, festive, memorial, and symbolic mises en scène, in the attempt to build national myths and contemporary debates on European identity as part of the political unification of the continent. The different types of heritage (material, cultural) are additional issues to consider.

Transfert of ideas and images

The construction of otherness here benefits from a vibrant, transdisciplinary approach that seeks to discern the circulation of ways to describe or designate alterity, as well as discourses about the world. We want to examine the otherness that is distant, both in terms of culture as well as physical space, by using literary works and discourse in the press. In this perspective, the writing of travel and migration texts holds an important place at the intersection of research on literature and on history. While these texts have an extreme diversity of motivations, time periods, and travel conditions, they all had the same result: the construction of a discourse that, when properly contextualized, reveals the expectations, assumptions, discoveries, and internal drivers of the passage from the known to unknown, and sometimes radical, otherness. Again, transatlantic flows are the focus of this research, which will also extend to other related maritime and land areas. In this great dynamic of circulations, we also want to reserve a special place for religious matters, envisaged as a set of practices and conceptions that underlie and organize rituals and worship, as well as behaviour and discourse.

The ethno-geopolitics of empires

This theme will explore the relationships of empires with peoples, communities, and groups, both internally and externally. This means, therefore, questioning the very notion of empire and its change over time through its treatment of communities. We will first turn our attention to the naming of peoples and their ethnographic construction through the qualities and defects that were attributed to them, especially in the art of war. Again, we will start in the Atlantic world, in the colonies and the development of racial models. This line of research focuses on the political manipulation of cultural issues, depending on the nature of political arrangements that set the conditions for this manipulation. In so doing, we seek a more fine-grained analysis of the concept of empire and its historical developments using a comparative methodology. We must also consider empire as a political construct with the vocation to expand, which in turn may have resulted in transforming its relationship to communities. More broadly, this research theme deals with the historically documented choices related to ‘minorities:’ hesitating between integration, acculturation, cohabitation, and increasing recourse to law. Empires could assimilate minorities, but did they want to? We will also examine alternatives to destruction or assimilation: marginalization, folklorization, and other manifestations of looking down on (when not scorning or domineering) minorities.

Coordination of research theme 3 :

Mis à jour le 29 June 2020.