Navigation – Plan du site
4 | 2008-2009
The Letter
Academic year 2008-2009
Facts and data

The Collège de France Institutes

p. 79-80

The Collège de France has four Institutes: Biology; the Contemporary World; Literary Studies; and the Far East. These are informal structures with no official status from an administrative point of view. They group together Chairs and hosted teams.

The Institutes are created or closed on the initiative of the professors concerned, after a formal decision by the Assembly.

They promote and facilitate research by defining common projects and by pooling technical staff, equipment (technical facilities, libraries, etc.) and premises.

The modalities of these Institutes’ organization may vary.

Institute of Biology

The Collège de France Institute of Biology, created in 1983 on a decision of the Assembly of Professors, includes the Collège’s Professors of Biology (whether their laboratory is located at the Collège itself or elsewhere) and the teams hosted by the Collège. The incumbent President is Alain Berthoz.

Chairs whose laboratories are located at the Institute of Biology:  

  • Alain Berthoz – Physiology of Perception and Action (CNRS UMR 7152)

  • Pierre Corvol – Experimental Medicine (Inserm U833)

  • Alain Prochiantz – Morphogenic Processes

Chairs whose laboratories are not located at the Collège de France:

  • Spyros Artavanis-Tsakonas – Developmental Biology and Genetics

  • Stanislas Dehaene – Experimental Cognitive Psychology (Inserm-CEA 562)

  • Philippe Kourilsky – Molecular Immunology

  • Jean-Louis Mandel – Human Genetics (Inserm U596)

  • Christine Petit – Genetics and Cell Physiology (Inserm U587)

Hosted teams located within the Institute of Biology (they benefit from all the Institutes resources):

  • Jean-Michel Deniau – Inserm U667 – Dynamics and Pathophysiology of Neuronal Networks

  • Xavier Jeunemaitre – Inserm U772 – Genes and Blood Pressure

  • Catherine Llorens-Cortes – Inserm U691 – Central neuropeptides and the regulation of body fluids

  • François Tronche – CNRS UMR 7148 – Molecular Genetics, Neurophysiology and Behaviour

  • Christian Giaume – Inserm U840 – Junctional communication and interaction between neuronal and glial networks.

Prof Anne Fagot-Largeault, holder of the chair of Philosophy of Biological and Medical Science, and Prof Armand de Ricqlès, holder of the chair of Historical Biology and Evolutionism, also participate in discussions concerning the Collège de France Institute of Biology.

The aim of the Institute is to promote the research being done within the Collège de France, via several actions defined by the professors of the Institute and applied by its Coordination Committee.

Shared resources:

  • animal facilities: conventional and transgenic

  • technical platforms: confocal imaging and electron microscopy, neural imaging

  • equipment for studying behaviour in rodents

  • document library

Institute of the Contemporary World

The Institute of the Contemporary World was created in 2005.

It groups together six Collège de France Chairs, five of which are located on the Ulm site and one on the Cardinal Lemoine site:

  • Mireille Delmas-Marty – Comparative Legal Studies and Internationalization of Law

  • Philippe Descola – Anthropology of Nature

  • Jon Elster – Rationality and Social Sciences

  • Roger Guesnerie – Economic Theory and Social Organization

  • Henry Laurens – Contemporary Arab History

  • Pierre Rosanvallon – Modern and Contemporary History of Politics

The Institute is coordinated by a professor on the basis of a two-year rotating system. Pierre Rosanvallon is coordinator for 2006 and 2007.

The members of the Institute are currently all participating in a multi-disciplinary study on globalization, focused on the following three dimensions: democracy, the rule of law, and the market.

Three key topics are addressed:

  • Management of global collective (public) goods

  • National sovereignty in question and the question of governance

  • Towards a global political society: law and politics in the constitution of an international order.

Institute of Literary Studies

The Institute of Literary Studies combines the Collège de France Chairs devoted to literature studies and related subjects (history of art, history of books):


  • Roger Chartier: Writing and cultures in modern Europe

  • Antoine Compagnon: Modern and contemporary literature: history, theory, critique

  • Carlo Ossola: Modern literatures of neo-latin Europe

  • Roland Recht: History of european medieval and modern art

  • Michel Zink: Literatures of medieval France

Emeritus Professors:

  • Yves Bonnefoy: History of the poetic function

  • Michael Edwards: Studies of literary creation in English

  • Marc Fumaroli: Rhetoric and society in Europe (16th–17thcenturies)

  • Harald Weinrich: Romance languages and literatures.

Michel Zink is currently the Director of the Institute of Literary Studies.

The Collège de France’s Oriental Institutes

As a pioneer in oriental studies in France and in some cases in the world, the Collège de France has always had very rich libraries in this field. Its collections were enhanced by the transfer in 1973 of the oriental studies institutes from the former Sorbonne. To a large extent, these libraries had always been open to researchers from outside the Collège de France. But their statuses differed considerably, they functioned independently, and they did not belong to the French university library system, which cut them off from an essential source of funding (for staff and operating costs). The development of catalogues accessible via Internet also necessitated the choice and purchase of new management systems, the costs of which exceeded the means of individual libraries. Finally, most of the libraries were affiliated with a Chair and consequently depended on its existence. In such cases the Collège could be tempted to maintain a particular Chair to ensure the survival of its library, which was often the only one of its kind in France.

1. The Oriental Institutes now form a federation of five Institutes with a large degree of managerial independence and no legal ties with the Chairs:

2. The Oriental Institute’s documentary collections are considered to be specialized sections of the general library. This will eventually lead to the unification of the catalogues and to a coordinated procurement policy. The collections are currently part of the university documentation system (SUDOC).

3. It is primarily the institutes, that is, institutions devoted to research and managed jointly with researchers, most of whom are from outside the Collège, that use the libraries. These institutes have the means to publish. Each of them is run by a Director and a Scientific Committee appointed for three years. The Federation of Institutes is headed by the Council consisting of Collège de France professors and a Scientific Committee with diverse outside personalities.

4. Although the collections are considered to be ‘classical’, and the researchers are often specialists in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, the contemporary world falls within their research field. This is not only because classical India ended with the arrival of the British, and the chronological limit of China was the end of the Manchurian Dynasty (1912). The linguistic collections have no chronological limit and the Bible, the Koran, the Veda, and Buddhist and Confucian texts are all too often at the crux of contemporary issues or violence for their current importance to be denied.

5. This reform has been endorsed by agreements with the Collège de France’s main partners (the Under-directorate of libraries of the Ministry for Higher Education and Research, the General Directorate of the CNRS, the BULAC (university library of languages and civilizations), the national institute for living oriental languages and civilizations, and the institute for research on the history of texts). The sharing of competencies and funding has thus been defined.