Informal Session: Jean Guiart: L’ethnographie comme marathon d’une vie/Ethnography as Life’s Marathon
Organizers: Lamont Lindstrom and Marc Tabani
Jean Guiart (1925-2019) was born in Lyon into a trilingual Protestant family (speaking French, English, and German). A student of Maurice Leenhardt at l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, he earned a preliminary diploma for ethnographic work on Tanna (Vanuatu) and later a doctorate based on an analysis of New Caledonian chiefly systems and also that island’s mythology and masks. He began his lengthy career with the Musée de l’Homme but then in 1947 took up a position with l’Institute Français d’Océanie and ORSTOM in Noumea. He subsequently held additional positions at the École Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, and back again at Musée de l’Homme before retiring first to Noumea and then Pape’ete where he established a press, Le Rocher-à-la-Voile, publishing his own work alongside that of others, including a number of local scholars.
In Vanuatu, in addition to Tanna (1951-1952) where Guiart investigated the John Frum Movement at the request of the French Resident Commissioner, Guiart surveyed Ambrym, Malekula, Espiritu Santo, Efate and the Shepherd Islands and later much of New Caledonia. According to Patrick O’Reilly, Guiart “oriented his research in such a manner not to focus on pure theory but so that it could help the job of administration, providing this with precise facts about local affairs and about indigenous needs, a better understanding of their interests and mentality.” An assiduous fieldworker, Guiart developed “sociological inventories” that he constructed by visiting every village and hamlet across an island or region, conducting censuses and documenting details of genealogy, chiefly status, land tenure, and more. In addition to original work on Melanesian social movements, chiefly systems, and oral and colonial history, he has published widely on Oceanic arts. Guiart also collaborated with archaeologist José Garanger whose excavations were guided by Guiart’s collection of Efate/Shepherd Islands oral traditions. In recent years, he has offered a series of commentaries, critiques, and recollections about Pacific cultures and the scholars who have studied these.
We invite contributions that assess Guiart’s place within and contributions to French ethnography and Pacific Studies; his ethnographic methods; his political positions; the contemporary significance of his extensive social and cultural documentation; and his intellectual heritage and his influence within Pacific anthropology. For additional information or to join the session, please contact co-organizers:
Marc Tabani, CREDO, <email@example.com>;
Lamont Lindstrom, University of Tulsa, <firstname.lastname@example.org>