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DOSSIER : Relations France-Afrique dans les mondes académiques

Framing Rural France as an African studies laboratory: The Formation à la recherche en Afrique noire (FRAN), 1969-1983

Encadrer la France rurale en tant que laboratoire d’études africaines : la Formation à la recherche en Afrique noire (FRAN), 1969-1983
Allison Sanders
p. 133-146

Résumés

Cet article traite des études africaines en France à travers le prisme de la Formation à la Recherche en Afrique Noire (FRAN), principal programme de formation africaniste interdisciplinaire en France au début de la période post-coloniale. Pour transmettre cette pratique, de 1969 à 1983 la FRAN favorisait des « stages de terrain » collectifs, sous la forme d’enquêtes, dans différentes régions en France rurale. L’étude de la FRAN, à partir des entretiens, documents et archives, permet de mettre en lumière cette période dans la tradition française des études africaines, ainsi que la façon dont ces pratiques de terrain ont été influencées par la relation ambiguë entre la France et ses anciennes colonies africaines.

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Notes de la rédaction

Allison Sanders examines African studies in France through the case of the Formation à la Recherche en Afrique Noire (FRAN), an interdisciplinary training program which, from 1969 to 1983, used collective fieldwork in rural France as a tool to transmit and study the practice of africanisme.

Texte intégral

Introduction

1In the 1960s, France entered into a golden age of research on Africa, characterized by the substantial growth of universities and research institutions both in France and in the former colonies, abundant job opportunities, plentiful funding and ambitious, large-scale research projects. At the time, France was recovering from the Second World War and had entered in a period of unprecedented growth and modernization, the Trente glorieuses, or thirty glorious years. Simultaneously, decolonization was underway, and France and her former colonies began to negotiate a new relationship after their colonial past. Researchers played a central role in this new dynamic between France and Africa, but they were also in an ambiguous space that was neither colonial nor post-colonial, faced with questions about the future and role of their disciplines in this new order.

  • 1 This research is ongoing. At the time of publication, fifteen interviews had been conducted with re (...)
  • 2 Africanisme and études africaines, both of which translate to African studies in English, are often (...)
  • 3 As Kristin Ross argues, the fact the two narratives (French modernization and decolonization) are o (...)

2This situation produced an increasing demand for formal training for fieldwork in Africa and the need for a re-examination of African studies. The Centre d’Etudes Africaines (CEA) offered a training program for young scholars called the Formation à la recherche en Afrique Noire (FRAN) which, from 1969 to 1983, included an applied course called a “stage”, during which teams of students carried out fieldwork in locations in rural France. This study of the FRAN, drawn from interviews and archival sources1, illustrates a complex moment in the history of French Africanisme2, in which the dual processes of decolonization and French modernization, generally considered entirely separate3, intersect. Their intricate links underwrite many dimensions of the Franco-African relationship, including changes in the core disciplines of French African Studies.

3This paper begins by situating the program and its origins in the landscape of French academia, and then addresses the influence of the time period on FRAN’s fieldwork practices in three parts : identification of the field ; the practice of collective fieldwork and training ; the role of institutions in the relationship to the field.

The FRAN : context, history, and objectives

  • 4 This work, of course, should be read alongside the literature on the history of French research ins (...)
  • 5 Similar training programs, or formations, existed during the same time period. The Formation à la R (...)

4The FRAN, despite being an important point of reference for the generation it trained, is not widely known ; the literature on the intellectual history of African studies or of French research institutions, while extensive, does not generally include the FRAN4. This is likely because it is relatively recent and concerned primarily young scholars and produced few publications5. However, the FRAN does appear in some texts, either in reports on the program or its influence on later research (Copans and Pouillon 1977 ; Guillot et al. 1978 ; Bagayogo 1977 ; Amiotte-Suchet et al. 2015 ; Pouillon 1988 ; Fassin 1986), and occasionally in autobiographical works (Charmes 1997 ; Blanc-Pamard 1991 ; Pouillon 2015). In order to understand the placement and role of the FRAN in the landscape of French academia it is vital to situate it in its institutional context, the Centre d’Etudes Africaines.

The Centre d’Etudes Africaines (CEA)

  • 6 The acronym CEA was replaced in the early 1990s by CEAf. The center merged with others in 2014 to b (...)
  • 7 The École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), whose 6th section later became the École des Hautes Ét (...)
  • 8 Centres de recherche et de documentation de la VIème section de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, (...)

5The CEA6 was created in 1958 by Georges Balandier as one of the area studies (aires culturelles) research laboratories in the Division des Aires culturelles (Area Studies Division) at the 6th section of the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE)7. A feature of the Fernand Braudel’s overhaul of the research architecture at the EPHE, each of these centers was designed to cater to the specificities of regional studies, their schools of thought, research themes and methods of investigation.8 The American philanthropic foundations Ford and Rockefeller, who were also involved in the American intellectual landscape, where area studies had grown spectacularly in the post-war years, heavily financed both projects.

  • 9 It is important to note that the African Studies practiced at the CEA/LA94 was only one of the curr (...)
  • 10 This weight on interdisciplinary, field-based study in French Africanism is partially due to the in (...)

6It is vital to note here that the CEA functioned in tandem and later merged with the Laboratoire de sociologie et de géographie africaines (also called the Laboratoire Associé 94 or LA94), a CNRS laboratory associated with Université de Paris V. The Laboratoire was founded in 1967 with Georges Balandier as the director and Gilles Sautter and Paul Mercier as assistant directors, and allowed the group to unite of researchers from multiple institutions, in particular the EPHE 6th section, CNRS, and the ORSTOM. The CEA/LA94 played a central role on the development of African studies in France, and was innovative in its interdisciplinarity, albeit with a particular emphasis on a partnership between geography and sociology/anthropology9. By time the FRAN was created in 1969, the CEA included programs in ethnography (directed by Denise Paulme), human geography (directed by Gilles Sautter), history (directed by Henri Brunschwig), urban sociology (directed by Paul Mercier) and social and political anthropology (directed by Georges Balandier), among others.10

African studies training at the CEA11

  • 11 Information on training programs at the CEA can be found in the work of Flora Petit and Francine Mu (...)

7Prior to the creation of the “Formation à la Recherche en Afrique Noire” in 1969, training programs existed at the CEA in different forms. One of the center’s original objectives was to provide a complete training for researchers on Africa. Shortly after its creation, the CEA opened a training program called “Initiation à la Recherche Africaniste”, which became “Preparation à la Recherche Africaniste” in 1963. These programs consisted of a series of classes and conferences ; the objective was to provide students with basic training in the different disciplines present in African studies. Balandier was involved in a number of institutions across which the center and its training programs were spread ; the institutional boundaries and identities that later become important were much less significant during this period. Over the next ten years, the courses and the individuals that taught them changed, which mirrored changes in French academia (for example, the increasing influence of Marxist thought and economic anthropology, the evolution of African history).

  • 12 While I found no direct link between the events of May 1968 and the transfer of the management of t (...)

8From 1959 to 1968, control of this training program remained with the senior researchers. This changed in 1969 when the program was renamed the “Formation à la Recherche en Afrique Noire” as responsibility for training was given to the next generation of researchers (students of the senior researchers, either from the ORSTOM or the EPHE)12. These young researchers, only a decade older than most of the students, had recently completed fieldwork in Africa and brought the training program closer to the actual situation of fieldwork, as well as the practical side of fieldwork training. The FRAN emphasized three basic elements of African studies in the preparation of students for fieldwork in Africa : interdisciplinarity, practice, and methodology. It is at this point that the program begins to include fieldwork training excursions in rural France in addition to its general courses.

The stages of the FRAN

9During the fieldwork training, or “stage”, section of the FRAN, small groups of students accompanied by instructors traveled to a location in rural France, for the study of “micro-regions”. The groups were a cross-section of the student population : French and international students, with a third of the group being African. These research trips lasted approximately two weeks, during which the team split into smaller groups of two or three students from different disciplines (in particular anthropology and geography), who examined either different themes or different villages in the same area. This level of analysis, village or the rural community, lends itself to a collaboration between geography and sociology, which is aligned with the emphasis placed on the monography as a method for understanding the life of agrarian communities, with a particular privilege given to cartographic analysis of the space.

  • 13 This is addressed later in the article, but it is important to note that ORSTOM researchers were se (...)

10The FRAN stage was short but intense, it was intended to prepare students who had not previously done fieldwork through a presentation of problems, research hypotheses, and different methods. The objective of the stage was for students to carry out a simulated “pré-enquête”, or pre-investigation, which included initiating contact with local administration and populations, data-gathering, employing a range of techniques and survey procedures, as well as troubleshooting problems that could arise from any of these elements. In addition, this experience also allowed students to experiment with the larger scientific process : the formulation of research questions, objects, and hypotheses, as well as data analysis, writing, and restitution13.

11While the students’ objectives were oriented around the tools and processes of conducting interdisciplinary research, the instructors’ objectives addressed a different spectrum of questions. These questions often addressed how best to train young researchers, as well as the effects of different elements on the knowledge production of the group. The non-directive nature of the experience was designed to push students to develop their own research ideas instead of carrying out surveys on a pre-determined subject. The experience also allowed for the examination of elements such the effectiveness of different group structures in the field (amorphous model, shared responsibility model, single leader model), as well as the correlation between quality of fieldwork and the quality of the final report (Copans and Pouillon 1977). Depending on the dynamic of the group and their instructors, the two sets of questions overlap and are visible in reports.

  • 14 This was confirmed in interviews, but also appears in the account of Jacques Charmes’ FRAN experien (...)

12There was also a practical dimension to the configuration ; carrying out fieldwork in teams was intended to balance out the very limited time available for fieldwork. While little information was available on the reasons for the selection of these sites, which changed from year to year, I was able to confirm that some were chosen based on the residence (or secondary residence) of a sympathetic researcher who could help facilitate contact with local institutions and populations.14

13Overall, this experience allowed both students and instructors to test the limits of tools, theories, research strategies, fostering discussion and ultimately to developing a critical approach to their interaction with the “field”. This interaction brings to the fore elements that characterize French African studies during this period and the intricacy of the academic relationship between France and Africa.

Stage in the Morvan (Bazoches-en-Morvan, Champignolles-le-bas), 2-9 May 1971. FRAN students learning land survey techniques

Stage in the Morvan (Bazoches-en-Morvan, Champignolles-le-bas), 2-9 May 1971. FRAN students learning land survey techniques

From left to right : Jean Fonkoué, Luciana P., Anne-Marie Pillet, Chantal Pamard, Bernard Guillot (Instructor, geographer, chargé de recherches at the ORSTOM)

From left to right : Benoît Antheaume, Jean-Pierre Chauveau, Luciana P., Jean Fonkoué, Anne-Marie Pillet, Chantal Pamard, Bernard Guillot (Instructor)

From left to right : Anne-Marie Pillet, Bernard Guillot (Instructor), Marc Augé (Instructor, anthropologist, sous-directeur d’études at the EHESS), Luciana P. Benoît Antheaume, Jean-Pierre Chauveau

©Photos courtesy of Chantal Blanc-Pamard

Distribution of the FRAN stages

Distribution of the FRAN stages

Map point

Academic year*

Location

Department

1

1969-1970

Vieille Brioude (Auvergne)

Haute-Loire

2

1970-1971

Bazoches-en-Morvan, Champignolles-le-Bas, Usy (commune de Dommecy-sur-Cure), Saint-Leger-Vauban

Yonne

3

1971-1972

Gouloux (Nièvre), Cussy-les-Forges (Yonne), Soevres (commune de Fontenay-près-Vézelay, Yonne)

Nièvre/Yonne

4

1972-1973

Causse-Bégon (Gard), St Jean du Bruel (Aveyron)

Aveyron / Gard

5

1973-1974

Commune de Bauduen (Var) , Saint Julien le Montagné

Var

6

1974-1975

Chars (Chars en Vexin), Jouy-le Moutier

Val d’Oise

7

1975-1976

Saint-Pierre-Les-Etieux, Saint Armand, Chatelet en Berry

Cher

8

1976-1977

Charenton du Cher

Cher

9

1977-1978

Bulat Pestivien (Bretagne)

Côtes d’Armor

10

1978-1979

Guingamp (Bretagne)

Côtes d’Armor

11

1979-1980

Mouliherne, Bocé

Maine et Loire

12

1980-1981

Montbrison, Roche-en-Forez

Loire

13

1981-1982

Port Boulet

Indre et Loire

14

1982-1983

Münster par Colmar, (Breitenbach, Hohrod, Muhlbach)

Haut-Rhin

14* Stages were held in the spring of each academic year

The field : Which field for African Studies ?

  • 15 Indeed, Henri Mendras had already published La fin des Paysans, innovation et changement dans l’agr (...)
  • 16 For a more exhaustive look at the complicated dynamics surrounding Balandier’s work on the colonial (...)

15Studying the FRAN provides an opportunity for the examination of the role and weight of rural studies during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Until the 1980s, rural studies formed the base of the research in social science performed in Africa, and the primary tools of the field disciplines (monographie ethnique, terroir) reflect this situation. However, at the time of the FRAN, the importance of rural studies was already out of phase with the reality in Africa, which was undergoing massive urbanization. France was also catching up, through an extremely rapid modernization, to the growth that North America had been experiencing during the first half of the 20th century15. The prevailing belief in both cases was that development would transform the “traditional” lives of rural peasants, so it was important to record and catalog this “national heritage”, but that researchers should also support the process through applied research. Another contradictory element is that, by this time, Balandier was the leading Africanist in France and had published, more than 20 years previously, “La situation coloniale”, or the colonial situation, which took sociology on Africa in a new direction, away from the more traditional studies of rural groups as isolated units. Yet the FRAN, and much of the later work of most of Balandier’s students, was not at all employing the same unit of analysis as he had. The reasons for this are multiple16, but it is a good illustration of the centrality of rural studies at the time.

  • 17 Jean Jamin’s ethnography La tenderie aux grives chez les ardennais du plateau, a study on the trapp (...)
  • 18 For example, Henri Mendras, a leading French sociologist on rural France, participated in a confere (...)
  • 19 For example, a lecture by Claudine Vidal in 1976 in Balandier and Sautter’s interdisplinary seminar (...)

16The FRAN, as well as the trajectories of many individual Africanists, demonstrates that there is an assumption that underwrites French research on Africa during this period – that there is no real difference between rural populations in France and rural populations in Africa. For the researchers who organized the FRAN as well as for its students, the equivalency of the two fields did not raise questions. Many researchers associated with the CEA, including Balandier himself, moved from one field to another during their careers. A significant number of researchers in this generation, largely though not exclusively Africanists, carried out fieldwork in France as well as abroad.17 This was not entirely unidirectional, as there is some evidence of researchers who worked exclusively on France participating in similar research in Africa.18 There was ongoing comparison between fieldwork in France and in Francophone Africa, as well as associated critiques that also appeared directly in the CEA, in methodology courses or in collective research seminars, but also in the work of researchers associated with the FRAN.19

  • 20 There is no close English equivalent for the term “terroir”, generally it means “a cultivated area (...)

17There are many reasons that may have contributed to this equivalency. The innovation that set the CEA apart from other institutions was its interdisciplinarity, inside of which the sociology/anthropology-geography pairing was particularly important. This is reflected in the institutional structure, both in the proximity to the LA94, but also in that the CEA’s leadership was intended to remain in the hands of a pair of researchers (one geographer, one sociologist/anthropologist), which it was until shortly after 2000. The prominence of these two disciplines explain much about the fluidity between fieldwork in France and fieldwork in Africa. An interesting feature of French anthropology is that, while most of the research in the post-war years was directed towards overseas, “exotic” populations, a significant portion of French anthropology was conducted on France itself, which undermines assumptions about the “fields” associated with the discipline (Rogers 2001). For geography, the 1960s signaled the emergence of the ‘terroir school’, in which Gilles Sautter was a key player20. The centrality of geography at the CEA could have also been at the origin of the idea of on-site fieldwork training, as it was standard practice for geography students to perform fieldwork in rural France.

18In addition, the disciplines’ principal tools were intended to be deployed in any location, by any researcher, in the same way. This interdisciplinary objective is clearly demonstrated in the FRAN, as students in various disciplines learned how to use tools from geography, sociology/anthropology/ethnography, demography, history, etc. Ultimately, once on the ground in Africa, this provided students with a range of tools to understand and interpret their objects of study. This is one of the elements that is underscored by former students as being long-lasting and particularly beneficial to their careers. Many students were sent on long expatriations in the field and thus had the time and opportunity to employ various tools.

19Another explanation is that this fluidity is a product of the French language space, or “espace francophone”, which played a significant role in enabling the movement of researchers from fields in France and in Africa and contributes to the perception of a special relationship. At that point in time, few field researchers working on Africa learned local languages, as there was little encouragement to do so. Instead, researchers worked in French and relied on research assistants and translators. This can be seen in the FRAN case through the fieldwork carried out in Brittany, in which students, including African students, relied on translators to interview individuals who only spoke Britton, the local language.

20Interviews confirmed that the experience of the FRAN was useful for students in their research careers, but that it also brought up interesting dynamics in the field. While less evident in written reports, former students regularly commented during interviews on the ability of some of their African peers to engage more readily in discussions about livestock or crops. While this type of “reciprocal anthropology” later became a subject on its own (Le Pichon, Sow 2011), there is no evidence that the FRAN had the objective of Africans studying France.

  • 21 An exodus of workforce, primarily women and youth, transforms some villages into “ville-dortoirs” o (...)

21This brings us back to France as a field and as an object. The reports generated by the FRAN not only paint a portrait of rural France, but also underscore a perception of the role of ethnography as a tool for the documentation of disappearing lifestyles and cultures. The FRAN fieldwork reports show rural France undergoing dramatic socio-economic changes as the traditional village populations decline and the economic activities were transformed.21 The most dramatic changes were attributed, in almost all of the reports, to the introduction of capitalism to agriculture in France. The “second industrialization” of mechanization and modernization of the farm and agricultural industry, according to the FRAN research, had the effect of wiping out a large proportion of small and mid-size farms, and forcing the others to align themselves with larger conglomerates who fixed the prices of what they purchase from smaller producers. This can be juxtaposed with observations of the development of another industry, present in rural France, that was undergoing a massive expansion in the post-war era : tourism.

The practice : Collective fieldwork, in France and in Africa

  • 22 This is not in any way an exhaustive list, for a more thorough examination of some of these differe (...)

22France has a rich history of collective ethnographic fieldwork, both at home and abroad. While this configuration is visible in French research institutions in two configurations, which I will discuss later, there is also a tradition of an ethnography of France that played an important role in training young Africanists, both French and African. In the 1960s and 1970s, the CNRS (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, or National Center for Scientific Research), employed a method of funding called the RCP (Recherches cooperatives sur programme, or cooperative research programs). This program made possible a series of collective research projects in rural France. Other institutions, such as the DGRST (Délégation générale de la recherche scientifique et technique, or General Delegation for Scientific and Technical Research) also funded similar projects. At the time of the founding of the FRAN, a series of major interdisciplinary collective field research projects in France had recently been completed. The earliest and most known is the study of Plozévet (in the Finistère) which took place from 1961 to 1965, and included André Burgière, Edgar Morin, and, in keeping with the argument of this article, Michel Izard, an Africanist who had recently completed fieldwork in Burkina Faso. This is followed by two RCP projects, one in Aubrac from 1963 to 1966 and another in Châtillonnais from 1966 to 1968, which included, among others, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Georges-Henri Rivière (of the Musée des Arts et Traditions Populaires), Henri Mendras, Isac Chiva, and François Furet. These were followed by another, more narrowly focused, collective study in Minot (in Châtillonnais) from 1967 to 1975, another large-scale study in the Baronnies (from 1974-1976), and many others22. These interdisciplinary studies were run by individual research laboratories, who were often fiercely protective of their “field”.

  • 23 The volume 32 of ethnographiques.org, published in September 2016 on the theme of collective resear (...)

23The collective fieldwork model, despite its prevalence in French (and European) research in the 20th century, is largely absent from general literature on fieldwork practices. However, there has been an increase in publications on the subject over the past ten years, either in reflections on or further study of previous collective fieldwork projects, but a link has also been made to current research funding practices.23

  • 24 The role and heritage of anthropological expeditions is more important than generally acknowledged (...)

24The emergence of collective fieldwork in Africa was intertwined with the colonial situation in two ways. Firstly the “expedition” model24 : Marcel Griaule’s Dakar-Djibouti expedition was an interdisciplinary, collective fieldwork project, the first of its kind for France, which had previously relied on accounts by missionaries and colonial administrators, some of whom had been given rudimentary ethnographic training by the Musée de l’Homme/ Institut d’Ethnographie. Griaule maintained this model and continued to perform “traditional” ethnographic fieldwork among the Dogon in Mali (rural, ethnicity, tribe, without external influence) after the expedition.

25The second model is related to the institutional situation in French West Africa. In the 1930s, a call for research institutions to be constructed in Africa to coordinate, research, and promote the French colonies led to the construction of two large research structures in Africa : the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire (IFAN), today the Institut Fondamental d’Afrique Noire, headquartered in Dakar with a series of centers throughout French Africa, and the Office de Recherche Scientifique et Technique d’Outre Mer (ORSTOM), today the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD), headquartered in Paris with offices throughout the French West Africa. According to interviews, links between these structures and other structures in France were relatively porous at the time, and strong institutional identities only developed later on. Inside of these institutions, researchers from various disciplines worked together closely and often collaborated on projects and carried out fieldwork in groups. In the 1940s and 1950s, the lack of firmly established methodology for fieldwork in the social sciences allowed teams of researchers to construct systems and research methods together.

The FRAN, collective research and critical approaches

  • 25 One example of these large advantages in critical thought is the de-construction of the concept of (...)

26The action of performing collective fieldwork during the FRAN stage permitted students to engage questions of race, class, and profession, as well as reflexivity and ideology, early on in their careers. The social dynamic and group environment fostered intense critique of many of the dimensions of the social sciences, ranging from tools, to social categories, to theory. This, possibly when combined with the intensity of later expatriation, constructed a generation of researchers in the CEA who developed critical advances together.25

  • 26 Students’ reports commented on the training programs’ role of “initiation rite”, which is reinforce (...)
  • 27 The role of the FRAN and its long-term effects on researchers first became evident in a seminar ser (...)

27The FRAN, in order to prepare students for fieldwork in the francophone world, gave students their first experience of fieldwork, which was quite powerful in marking the memory and trajectory of researchers26. The FRAN ultimately had the effect of constructing a common point of reference for an entire generation of researchers, as well as social bonds between individuals27. Many of these individuals met again on their long expatriations in Africa, as there were high concentrations of expatriate researchers in specific areas such as Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Congo-Brazzaville, or Madagascar. These areas and networks played a key role in the development of networks and ideas in French African Studies.

Institutions and the field : After the FRAN

  • 28 There are two cases that fall somewhat outside of this system, that of the coopérants, or young men (...)

28For French researchers, institutions were the gatekeepers for fieldwork. The scale of the French project to develop a “colonial science” led to the construction of a multitude of research institutions on site in the colonies. After the African independences, some of these institutions, such as the IFAN, were nationalized (while retaining French researchers), while others, such as the ORSTOM, remained French. As a general rule, researchers were all linked to the civil service, either through university or school postings (in France or en détachement abroad), or through one of the major research institutions.28 These institutions were responsible for coordinating research in Africa, so even researchers who were not directly affiliated would pass through their systems.

  • 29 For more background on the complicated origins of the ORSTOM, see Christophe Bonneuil’s work Des Sa (...)

29Some features and mechanisms were present in French research institutions that influenced the relationship between researchers and the field. The CEA was one of the area studies centers at the EPHE 6th section, where the number of courses and students made it the largest of the area studies. Balandier and Sautter were involved in a multitude of institutions, but the most important in the case of the FRAN is the role of the ORSTOM. The ORSTOM, initially created to produce and coordinate “colonial science”29, grew slowly in the late ‘40s and ‘50s, but underwent massive growth in the decades after independence. The number of available positions made it the most attractive employer for French researchers in the former colonies, and with Balandier and Sautter on the ORSTOM committees for their respective disciplines many of their students were assured spots. The ORSTOM made the FRAN a required prerequisite for students and young researchers before their first long-term expatriation, so there was a significant number of young orstomiens in the program.

  • 30 There were a few women in the ORSTOM, the first in the human sciences being the geographer Antoinet (...)

30The FRAN, and in particular the stages, presented an idealistic version of African studies that resembles a post-colonial ideal, in which gender and racial equality is assured in research. The FRAN experience, however, was unique in that it, while designed to prepare students for fieldwork in Africa, it suffered from a massive discrepancy for certain groups of students, notably women and Africans. While there are many notable women Africanists during this period (Denise Paulme, Ariane Deluz, Geneviève Calame-Griaule, and Françoise Héritier, among others), there were also many institutional constraints that affected women’s careers in research. In the context of the FRAN, the fact that the program was largely serving to prepare young orstomiens for their expatriations was vital. ORSTOM, especially during this period, was conceived somewhat like a military operation ; young men were sent on 2-year long overseas expatriations. They were generally single, but some were accompanied on their expatriations with their wives and families. Female researchers who applied to join the ORSTOM were denied entry30. Some of the female students joined the university system or the CNRS, the central government research agency, though both possessed less funding for fieldwork than the ORSTOM. Others did end in the field, but as the wives of ORSTOM researchers or as teachers ; these women collaborated on research projects but were rarely named. It was not until the 1980s that the recruitment of women in the ORSTOM began to advance. At one point there was some conflict in the FRAN stages about the role of women in the groups, in particular whether or not it was necessary for each group to have one woman in order to be able to interview local women in the village.

  • 31 Part of the massive growth in the number of university students in France in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘7 (...)
  • 32 As Jean-Hervé Jézéquel notes in the case of the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire in Senegal (but t (...)

31Approximately a third of the FRAN students were African31. Some of these students benefitted from scholarships or partnerships between French and African universities to study in France during this period, in part due to young African universities not having the resources to grant doctoral degrees in certain fields, but also due to the politics of cooperation and development in the new post-independence era. As FRAN prepared French students for their upcoming fieldwork in rural Africa, it also gave the African students fieldwork experience in rural France. This situation underscores an aspect of ambiguity in the Franco-African academic relationship : a profound knowledge of each other, both of similarities and of differences. Of the African students I was able to trace, most returned to their home countries after receiving their diplomas, and either joined the government or took up teaching or research positions32.

Conclusion

32By the early 1970s, a number of other research centers, generally in the disciplines of sociology/anthropology/ethnography, begin employing applied fieldwork experiences in their training courses. The last recorded field “stage” of the FRAN was carried out in the Indre-et-Loire department of France in 1983, but the course continued afterwards without the rural fieldwork component. Interest and resources dwindled towards the end of the fieldwork program, which is demonstrated by the students’ reports and the departure of many instructors.

  • 33 The role of Florence Weber is interesting to note, as she also carried out fieldwork from 1978 to 1 (...)

33In 1984, Florence Weber33, Brigitte Guigou, Michel Pialoux and Alban Bensa organized a joint training program between the École Normale Supérieure and the FRAN in which teams of students were sent to an ENS site in Foljuif, outside of Paris (Weber 1987). This configuration allowed for a different type of study, as the site remained the same over a number of years, whereas the FRAN’s original construction changed location regularly. The FRAN continued to exist as a seminar until 2004, at which point it becomes the Seminaire d’étude sur la formation à la recherche en Afrique (SEFRA), which is still operational at the EHESS.

34This article is the final section of a larger work on the history and practice of French africanisme in Africa, primarily from the 1930s to the 1980s. The section on the FRAN closes the study because it represents a different stage in the process - a type of restitution, as young researchers in the social sciences returned from long expatriations on the African continent with new ideas on theory and practice in their disciplines and in African studies more generally and took over training the next generation for their own imminent fieldwork. This article is not intended to be a definitive report, but rather a short profile of a training program that was remarkable on many levels : the Franco-African relationship during the decades after the independences, the role of rural studies, the importance of collective fieldwork and research, the history of institutions such as the CEA, EHESS and the ORSTOM, and the history and institutionalization of African studies and their associated disciplines.

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Notes

1 This research is ongoing. At the time of publication, fifteen interviews had been conducted with researchers who had participated in the FRAN, either as organizers or students. The data presented in this article is a mixture of data from the EHESS archives, documentation (including 13 student reports and other student notes), interviews, seminar sessions, and some other secondary sources cited in the article.

2 Africanisme and études africaines, both of which translate to African studies in English, are often used interchangeably in French though they have subtle differences, as noted by Benoît de L’Estoile in his article “Africanisme et `Africanism’ : esquisse de comparaison franco-britannique”(de l’Estoile 1997). It is in this period that the growth of area studies leads études africaines to overtake africanisme in usage.

3 As Kristin Ross argues, the fact the two narratives (French modernization and decolonization) are often considered separately has led to a misunderstanding of the extent of the influence of each on the other, as well as significant consequences for French society over the longer term (Ross 1996).

4 This work, of course, should be read alongside the literature on the history of French research institutions and universities, as well as the literature on the history of Africanisme, area studies/aires culturelles, and development studies.

5 Similar training programs, or formations, existed during the same time period. The Formation à la Recherche en Anthropologie Sociale et Ethnologie (FRASE), for example, was the successor to Claude Lévi-Strauss’s « Initiation à la Recherche en Anthropologie Sociale » and to the Ecole’s more general, but short lived, « Enseignement Préparatoire à la Recherche en Sciences Sociales » (EPRASS), which gave way to « Formations à la Recherche » in 1970, handled by individual laboratories. Many of the first generation of members at the CEA (Balandier, Paulme, etc.) had received training at the Institut d’Ethnographie, which was part of the Musée de l’Homme. The history of French social science is intertwined with the history of the two institutions, both of which had enormous impact on the disciplines of anthropology, sociology and ethnology, as well as on area studies. For an excellent and thorough history of both, see Alice Conklin’s In the Museum of Man (Conklin 2002). The Institut was the first to offer formal ethnographic training in France, and this training did evolve over time. The Centre de Formation aux recherches ethnologiques (CFRE), created by André Leroi-Gourhan, a key figure at the Musée de l’Homme, in 1946, was attached first to the Muséum and later to the Institut. This training, from 1958 until the late 1960s, did include a stage of one week in rural France under the supervision of Leroi-Gourhan and Roger Bastide until the retirement of the latter in 1968 and the departure of the former for the Collège de France in 1969 (Gutwirth 2005). The CFRE eventually fell victim to university reform and reorganization and was ultimately transferred to the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in 1973.

6 The acronym CEA was replaced in the early 1990s by CEAf. The center merged with others in 2014 to become the Institut des mondes africains (IMAF). Additional information on the history of the CEA from its origins until the early 1970s can be found in the thesis of Flora Petit, secretary of the CEA (Petit 1971), a report by Francine Muel-Dreyfus (Muel-Dreyfus 1972) in the Cahier dÉtudes Africaines, as well as annual reports concerning the center.

7 The École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE), whose 6th section later became the École des Hautes Études , was created in the late 19th century as a research institution to complement the Sorbonne University. Brigitte Mazon’s work on the history of the EHESS cites the explanation given by François Furet (EHESS president from 1977 to 1985) for the position of the institution being due to the “law of peripheral development” in French higher education. This explanation, which considers that there is central pillar, in this case the Sorbonne, around which new institutions are created to respond to emerging demands, disciplines, or fields of research. These institutions thus occupy a space both marginal and privileged and are simultaneously complements and rivals to the central university system (Mazon 1988, 11). This is particularly relevant when it comes to the institutionalization of area studies in France, as the “École”, already one of these « peripheral institutions », under the direction of Fernand Braudel, created some of the earliest research centers in area studies in France. For more information on the role of the EHESS in French social science, see the collection Une école pour les sciences sociales. De la VIe section à l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales(Revel and Wachtel 1996).

8 Centres de recherche et de documentation de la VIème section de l’École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, EPHE, 1973, vol 4.

9 It is important to note that the African Studies practiced at the CEA/LA94 was only one of the currents of African Studies in France. From the 1950s onward, there were three active currents of Africanist thought in France : one led by Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, which specialized in “systèmes de pensée” (systems of thought), a second led by Georges Balandier around his Sociologie Actuelle d’Afrique Noire, and finally, a third current, which is not really a current by itself but rather the massive influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss’s structuralism on French anthropology. This article focuses on Balandier’s current, though I will argue later that even Balandier’s work has a limited impact on the training program.

10 This weight on interdisciplinary, field-based study in French Africanism is partially due to the influence of Maurice Delafosse’s view of African studies (Sibeud 2002 p. 252).

11 Information on training programs at the CEA can be found in the work of Flora Petit and Francine Muel-Dreyfus (ibid), but also in the EHESS’s listing of training programs (EPHE 1974).

12 While I found no direct link between the events of May 1968 and the transfer of the management of the training program from one generation to the next, it is unlikely that there is no relationship between the two events.

13 This is addressed later in the article, but it is important to note that ORSTOM researchers were sent overseas for minimum periods of 24 months, during which they would not be able to return to France.

14 This was confirmed in interviews, but also appears in the account of Jacques Charmes’ FRAN experience in Mille et une histoires Outre Mer (Charmes 1997).

15 Indeed, Henri Mendras had already published La fin des Paysans, innovation et changement dans l’agriculture française, by the time the FRAN stages had begun (Mendras 1967).

16 For a more exhaustive look at the complicated dynamics surrounding Balandier’s work on the colonial situation, see the excellent chapter “The Rise, Fall, and Rise of Colonial Studies, 1951-2011” by Frederick Cooper (Cooper 2005).

17 Jean Jamin’s ethnography La tenderie aux grives chez les ardennais du plateau, a study on the trapping of thrush in northeastern France, was carried out after his recruitment to the ORSTOM (a French institution dedicated to overseas research). Marc Abélès’s study on the political ethnology of the Yonne, Jours tranquilles en 89, was carried out after his work on Ethiopia. Alban Bensa worked on popular cults in France Les Saints guérisseurs du Perche-Gouët prior to his work on New Caledonia. Jeanne Favret-Saada’s work on modern sorcery in the western Bocage in France, Les mots, la mort, les sorts, came after her return to France from Algeria in the early 1960s.

18 For example, Henri Mendras, a leading French sociologist on rural France, participated in a conference on rural communities in the Petit Bassam center of the Office de la recherche scientifique et technique d’Outre-Mer (ORSTOM) in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in 1972. The conference included researchers specializing in countries throughout Francophone Africa, as well as Mendras on France.

19 For example, a lecture by Claudine Vidal in 1976 in Balandier and Sautter’s interdisplinary seminar, titled “De la brousse au bocage” (From the bush to the bocage, see the reference to Jeanne Favret-Saada), raised a series of reflexive interrogations of ethnology, starting from André Burguiere’s work on Bretons in France and including Vidal’s fieldwork experiences in Rwanda. Marc Augé also published an article on Favret-Saada’s book in which he compares witchcraft in the Bocage to witchcraft in Africa (Augé 1979). Another example can be found in François Pouillon’s 1988 investigation of difficulties in data collection on herd sizes in different African pastoral societies, in which he notes that this difficulty is not confined to African studies, as similar difficulties arose in fieldwork carried out in the “strangely close universe” of the French countryside (Pouillon 1988 :187).

20 There is no close English equivalent for the term “terroir”, generally it means “a cultivated area but also a cultural landscape with which the inhabitants maintain historical and affective ties.” (Basset, Blanc-Pamard & Boutrais 2007 :104) For a foundational text, see Sautter and Pelissier’s 1964 article “Pour un atlas des terroirs africains.”

21 An exodus of workforce, primarily women and youth, transforms some villages into “ville-dortoirs” or “sleeping villages”, particularly evident in the reports on Chars in 1974. Multiple reports also note the arrival of foreign residents (English, German, Austrian, etc.) who purchase property in France, in some cases constructing types of enclaves.

The reports note the role of women and the departure of the female workforce towards urban industries such as hat, glove, and silk factories. Multiple reports underline the role of women in the transmission of property, as well as in economic activities such as the production of cheese ; this, alongside the FRAN system for interviewing women, came into question during one of the stages when female students wishing to study women’s issues came into conflict with the organizers and their colleagues.

22 This is not in any way an exhaustive list, for a more thorough examination of some of these different projects, and in particular Plozévet, see the collection En France Rurale. Les enquêtes interdisciplinaires depuis les années 1960(Paillard, Simon, and Le Gall 2010).

23 The volume 32 of ethnographiques.org, published in September 2016 on the theme of collective research, connects the history of collective fieldwork to the current renewal (revival) of collective research practices. Other works are the result of the projects themselves or reflexive work on the projects (Burguière 1975), or studies of the collective fieldwork projects themselves (Martin-Fugier, n.d.).

24 The role and heritage of anthropological expeditions is more important than generally acknowledged by anthropologists, in large part because it was replaced by a different model in the mid-twentieth century. For more information, consult Expeditionary Anthropology : Teamwork, Travel, and the ‘Science of Man’(Thomas and Harris 2018).

25 One example of these large advantages in critical thought is the de-construction of the concept of ethnicity (Amselle, M’Bokolo 1985) which was made possible through collective seminars in France but also by discussions in the field.

26 Students’ reports commented on the training programs’ role of “initiation rite”, which is reinforced by similar training programs elsewhere, such as Lyn Shumaker’s work on the Rhodes Livingstone Institute, where researchers “… developed methods and theories largely through their activity in teams that received field training together.” (Schumaker 2001).

27 The role of the FRAN and its long-term effects on researchers first became evident in a seminar series I organized at the EHESS from 2013 to 2015 on the “Aînés de l’africanisme” in which senior researchers were invited to give a reflexive account of their career. The FRAN was cited regularly, and following the seminar series, I continued investigating the FRAN training program, in particular its applied fieldwork experience.

28 There are two cases that fall somewhat outside of this system, that of the coopérants, or young men doing their obligatory military service through a teaching or research posting abroad, and that of independent researchers, of which there were few in the 1960s.

29 For more background on the complicated origins of the ORSTOM, see Christophe Bonneuil’s work Des Savants pour l’Empire (Bonneuil, n.d.).

30 There were a few women in the ORSTOM, the first in the human sciences being the geographer Antoinette Hallaire in 1957. In the 1950s, the percentage of women researchers at the ORSTOM was 10 %, but from 1958 to 1981, this percentage dropped to 4 %, due to the absence of female recruitment (Durand 2010).

31 Part of the massive growth in the number of university students in France in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s was the percentage of international students, including Africans, which had reached 12.8 % by the late 1970s (Verger 1986) p. 402.

32 As Jean-Hervé Jézéquel notes in the case of the Institut Français d’Afrique Noire in Senegal (but the same conclusion can be drawn for the University of Dakar/Cheikh Anta Diop during the same period), many Senegalese researchers were not able to attain researcher or professor jobs in the decades following independence, as these posts were generally reserved for French researchers (Jézéquel 2011). The professionalization of African research assistants from the 1930s onwards ushered in a new type of participation for Africans in scientific production, but it simultaneously created constraints on upward mobility in the scientific community.

33 The role of Florence Weber is interesting to note, as she also carried out fieldwork from 1978 to 1985 in Montbard, which is in the area of Châtillonnais, where there was also a large collective study from 1966 to 1968, and another in the nearby town of Minot from 1967 to 1975 (Laferté 2006).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Stage in the Morvan (Bazoches-en-Morvan, Champignolles-le-bas), 2-9 May 1971. FRAN students learning land survey techniques
Légende From left to right : Jean Fonkoué, Luciana P., Anne-Marie Pillet, Chantal Pamard, Bernard Guillot (Instructor, geographer, chargé de recherches at the ORSTOM)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/hrc/docannexe/image/3479/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Légende From left to right : Benoît Antheaume, Jean-Pierre Chauveau, Luciana P., Jean Fonkoué, Anne-Marie Pillet, Chantal Pamard, Bernard Guillot (Instructor)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/hrc/docannexe/image/3479/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Légende From left to right : Anne-Marie Pillet, Bernard Guillot (Instructor), Marc Augé (Instructor, anthropologist, sous-directeur d’études at the EHESS), Luciana P. Benoît Antheaume, Jean-Pierre Chauveau
Crédits ©Photos courtesy of Chantal Blanc-Pamard
URL http://journals.openedition.org/hrc/docannexe/image/3479/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Distribution of the FRAN stages
URL http://journals.openedition.org/hrc/docannexe/image/3479/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 78k
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Allison Sanders, « Framing Rural France as an African studies laboratory: The Formation à la recherche en Afrique noire (FRAN), 1969-1983 »Histoire de la recherche contemporaine, Tome VIII-n°2 | 2019, 133-146.

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Allison Sanders, « Framing Rural France as an African studies laboratory: The Formation à la recherche en Afrique noire (FRAN), 1969-1983 »Histoire de la recherche contemporaine [En ligne], Tome VIII-n°2 | 2019, mis en ligne le 15 mars 2020, consulté le 12 mai 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/hrc/3479 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/hrc.3479

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Allison Sanders

Doctorante, IMAF-EHESS

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