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Books > History > Orientalism and Anthropology From Max Muller to Louis Dumont: Pondy Papers In Social Sciences
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Orientalism and Anthropology From Max Muller to Louis Dumont: Pondy Papers In Social Sciences
Orientalism and Anthropology From Max Muller to Louis Dumont: Pondy Papers In Social Sciences
Description
Introduction

The Frenchman Raymond Schwab has given India its place in the construction of Oriental imaginary. This pioneer demonstrated in an erudite work, La Renaissance orientale (1950), to which extent the discovery of the learned culture of the Hindus had both fostered and rendered extravagant the avant-garde and melancholic thought of European Romanticism, including its symbolic or decadent metamorphoses, in essays, poetry and novels, as well as on theatre stages.

It was, however, not until the incisive book by Edward Said, Orientalism (1978), that the study of literature, the arts and social sciences was seen to be inscribed in the framework of the European colonial adventure and enterprise. It is true that his focus concerned only the Arab world and the Middle East. However, his argumentative arsenal progressively reached out to assail more distant regions of the Orient, including that of South Asia. Since then, the battle lines have been drawn: the potent Occident was historically constituted by transforming the Other, inferior and dangerous, into the emasculated Orient which was needed to legitimate its imperialist design.

A considerable number of works have gone down this hypercritical and reflexive, not to say Manichaean, path, works bearing on the relations between the West and the "rest", with varying success and subtlety (G.C. Spivak 1988, 1990; A.K. Bhabha 1990; N.D. Dirks 1992; A Ahmad 1992; G. Prakash 1994, 1995). A recent collective work vigorously testifies to this, Orientalism and the Post-Colonial Predicament (Breckenridge & van der Veer 1993), offering much more than its title would give one to expect. Along the lines of Bernard Cohn (1987; 1996), who undertook to make an inventory of all the modalities through which British discourse produced various forms of knowledge: investigations, censuses, museography, legal codes, etc., one examines with greater depth the ways in which the colonial administration constructed a knowledge of Indian society and culture which were, in fact, fashioned by it. But also, and above all, one learns that colonialism persists today, such is the difficulty which Indians and foreigners have in thinking of India in terms which would not be orientalist in nature. Also bearing witness to this are the works of an anthropologist from the subcontinent who has assimilated the academic field to a fictive space by entitling his book Imagining India (1990). At the same time, he repudiates his earlier standpoints. An intention of this work was to break down the solid disciplinary objects which, for many years, caste, village, the Indian spirit and divine kingship had constituted. Ronald Inden, for it to his work we refer, preceded this "deconstructionist" attack with an article, "Orientalist Constructions of India" (1986), in which he brilliantly signaled the major stages of the categorical reification of India-a subcontinent continually transformed in essence, according to Inden, since the Age of Enlightenment.

Notwithstanding excesses, factual errors and the technique of anachronism initially employed by Edward Said-who was criticized on this account by James Clifford (1988), Aijaz Ahmad (1991), and many others (Sprinker 1992)-his work engendered a project which, on the long term, has proved salutary: that of re-thinking the problem of the construction of the Other, in disciplines of fiction, as in the field of social sciences. This project Edward Said himself continues to foster by integrating Africa, India, the Far East, Australia, the Caribbean and the most contemporary actuality, in his latest work, Culture and Imperialism (1993).

Today, many bemoan the deleterious effects on the research into these turbulent "deconstructionist" or "post-orientalist" undertakings without, however, really knowing which meanings are to be ascribed to these terms; the word "post modernism" is meaningless, so you have to use it very often… Let us grant that "deconstructionism" applied to "orientalism", leads to the foundation of a "post-modernism" which renews that which it denounces insofar as it accords sovereign based. Who, in effect, could deny that henceforward the conventional rhetoric of "discourse", of "discursiveness", "narrative" and of "power"-evidently mixed with or contrasted to (Gramscian) "hegemony"-has often borne similarity to a septic bacillus? French intellectual tradition is without doubt well placed to recognize this, in as much as the jargoning groundswell is readily supplied by indigenous authors: Derrida, Lyotard, Bourdieu or Foucault. Their readers encounter, however, some difficulty in recognizing them in the "post-structuralist" amalgam, since which time they have crossed the Channel and the Atlantic, where they are to be found enlisted in the battalions of textual demolishers of neo-colonialism-armchair decolonizers! It will suffice to recall Michel Foucault's unkind remark qualifying the work of Jacques Derrida: "[…] historically determined minor pedagogy" that these gurus occupy distinct, if not contradictory, positions of authority in the regional field of the homo academicus, to employ the characteristic terminology of one of them. However, post-colonialism is obliging: who could legitimately forbid anyone to appropriate imported products as one deems fit? Thus, it is a question of scale and distance.

To wish to recognize in this effervescence only vain excitement fostered by post-modern illusion does not, however, do justice to the profuse imagination of contemporary social sciences. Also, nothing serves to combat such a pervasive logorrhea: anything undertaken against it, said Friedrich Nietzsche, is insignificant. It would be better to take not of this renewal of perspectives and inquiries in order to assess the reconfiguration of the old domain designated by the antiquated, but today very fashionable, term "orientalism". Is this not, after all, in "the nature of normal science", as the epistemologist Thomas Kuhn (1983) wrote, as any contributor to evolving science must know. For, from the sustained effort of Indianists since the 1970s, Anglo-Saxons as well as Europeans, but, let us stress, above all of Indians, a profusion of knowledge has resulted which, by shifting the emphasis of problems open to research, and the criteria according to which specialists decide upon that is to constitute a problem or solution, defies the preservation of pre-existing paradigms.

One possibility which exists for countering the "post-orientalist" surge consists in reducing the scale of observation of studies, which, moreover, are concerned to render the problems complex, through an attentive exploration of details, of juxtapositions, of unanticipated short-circuits and unforeseen links. Underscoring argumentative or rhetorical procedures, new paths may be opened for appraising orientalism and anthropology in their interwoven destinies, which are to be subjected to rigorous periodization.

To contribute to the realization of this task is the intention of this small work, Orientalism and Anthropology, a title which can be read as a chiasmus, and by which should be understood: an orientalism reappraised by a resolutely plural anthropology. The purpose of the three texts included in this volume is to cast light on the extent to which orientalism is founded on anthropology, and conversely-each author doing so in his own manner: ironic as regards Denis Vidal, Bourdieusian in the case of Roland Lardinois, turbulent as for Jackie Assayag. Max Muller and Louis Dumont were, of course, only the standard-bearers of a disciplinary tendency which developed over a lengthy period: a tendency manifested by the will to capture an essential, not to say, fundamental, India.

The relevance of the studies in this volume is fourfold. First, it is shown that the works of French-speaking researchers in India have not been devoted exclusively to research done "in the field, which one might be led to believe, although these examples are chosen at random, by the list of Pondy Papers in Social Sciences, the titles of the principal scientific journal devoted in France to the thematic of South Asia-Purusartha -, or the recent monographs by two of the contributors to this volume (Vidal 1995; Assayag 1995) and the investigations regarding the family carried out by the third (Lardinois 1986). It should be emphasized that it is through the will to remain continually in proximity of the "field" that researchers avoid becoming "armchair decolonizers".

This volume thus at least enables one to recall that there is indeed a critical tradition of the Dumontian model in France, where the work has, in effect, been the dominant. If not exclusive, paradigm, not only for the study of the subcontinent, but also for the presentation of the comparative method of the culturist type. The model, moreover, is still employed by a few isolated Indianists who disregarding disciplinary transformations, indifferent to new objects of study, little acquainted with other than French-language bibliographies, weary themselves in fashioning something new from what is old through presumptuous, but pitiable, conceptual abundantly known.

In the English-speaking countries, the major work, Homo Hierarchicus (1967), had also served as a model, but in the manner of a foil. Consider, for example, the elaboration of "ethno-sociology" by the Chicago School, patronized by McKim Marriott (1989), today reduced to the exploration of the facets of a (magical) cube endowed with the capacity to explain Indian society as a whole. The equivocal privilege of the Dumontian model made in America' persists today: the last work of the Dumontian model 'made in America' persists today: the last work of the anthropologist Mattison Mines (1994), entirely devoted to the exploration of Tamil culture (and that of South Asia-the work wittingly upholds this ambiguity-), adopts an opposing course and conception of India, antithetical to the comparative method of Louis Dumont, by demonstrating that individualism does, in fact, exist in India. It is, however, an individualism which does not eclipse ambitious work which opposes those whom it refers to as "the merchant[s] of the exotic", whether academic or not, Decidedly, one is always the orientalist of the other!.

The texts comprising this volume also take a cultural view of history. It is a question, particularly for English-speaking readers little acquainted with the ideological history of France between the two World Wars, of calling to mind a few unnoticed, forgotten or overshadowed intellectual references which, nevertheless, were determinant in the construction of an "object" which one is increasingly less inclined to term scientific. The India of the French academic tradition has certainly not been comparable to that of British and American and, a fortiori, of Indian, traditions, Regional anthropologies of the different nations do not correspond; they have their own academic traditions, their privileged regions of study and their preferred tools, if it is not a recognizable construction among many. They are also manifestations of "imagined communities", as Benedict Anderson has defined nations (1983).

Finally, these texts affirm how heuristic is to cross rather then preserve them on the basis of a single paradigm. The boundaries between disciplines or faculties, literary genres or inspired tropisms. However cursorily one examines the conceptual tools and intellectual constructions elaborated in time and taught according to circumstances, the boundaries appear more fluid than one would have thought. Understanding is not closed to imagination, and imagination often lends ardour to understanding.

That is to say, these texts with to restore to imagination the potency of its meaning. This also pertains to symbolic constructions which are intellectual undertakings, even, and above all, if they have similarities to "Gothic architectures", to employ the equivocal praise which Edmund Leach (1970) addressed to Claude Levi-Strauss; British traditional empiricism thus takes hold of the intellectualism of researchers on the continent. Such a study has already been put forward for works of fiction (Weinberger-Thomas 1988, Lombard 1993). As for theoretic productions, the field still lies by and large fallow. It is hoped that the perspective offered by these three texts will help to elucidate, by individual cases, the limits between indology and the social sciences. Let us also hope that they will serve to illustrate the strength of what the most Greek of all French philosophers, Cornelius Castoriadis (1975), has called "the imaginary institution of society.

Back of the Book

The purpose of the three texts included in this volume is to cast light on the extent to which Orientalism is founded on anthropology, and conversely-each author doing so in his own manner. Max Muller and Louis Dumont were, of course, only the standard-bearers of a disciplinary tendency to capture an essential, not to say, fundamental, India.

The relevance of the studies in this volume is fourfold. First, it is shown that the works of French-speaking researchers in India have not been devoted exclusively to research done "in the field". Second. It enables one to recall that there is indeed a critical tradition of the dominating Dumontian model in France. Third, it calls to mind a few unnoticed, forgotten or overshadowed intellectual references which, nevertheless, were determinant in the French construction of India. Finally, these texts affirm how heuristic it is to cross the boundaries between disciplines or faculties, literary genres or inspired tropisms, rather than preserve them on the basis of a single paradigm.

It is hoped that the perspective offered by these three texts will help to elucidate the limits between Indology and the social sciences, and will serve to illustrate the strength of what the French philosopher, Cornelius Castoriadis, has called "the imaginary institution of society".

This volume is reprinted as it has been edited in 1997.

CONTENTS

Note 7
Introduction9
Orientalism And Anthropology
Jackie Assayag
Bibliography14
Max Muller and The Theosophists17
Denis Vidal
1The Two Sides of Orientalism18
2Missing Links23
3Conclusion26
Bibliography28
Genesis Of Louis Dumont's Anthropology 31
Roland Lardinois
1East And West A Thought of Order And Hierarchy33
2Rene Guenon: The Life-History of An Outcast35
3Durkheim's Sociology at Stake37
4From The Crisis of The Modern World To The Anthropology of Modernity39
5Indigenous Theory And The Sociological Model40
6Homo Hierarchicus: A Dharmic Reading of Hinduism41
7Hinduism And The Universal45
8Fundamental Science And (Classical) Science47
9Repression And Resurgence48
Bibliography56
Indianism And The Comparative Theory of Louis Dumont61
Jackie Assayag
1Anthropology And Indianism63
2Archaeology Of A Regional Anthropology Hierarchy66
2.1. Paris. Val d'Aoste, Oxford67
2.2. Berlin, Sudan and Arabia, the Veda and Rome69
2.3. Tarascon, Polynesia, Ceylon and Indo-Europeans72
2.4. France, the 1930s Gnostic regionalism and Cairo once again75
3Regionalism Or Transnationalism?80
Bibliography83
Abstracts89
Resumes90

Orientalism and Anthropology From Max Muller to Louis Dumont: Pondy Papers In Social Sciences

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Introduction

The Frenchman Raymond Schwab has given India its place in the construction of Oriental imaginary. This pioneer demonstrated in an erudite work, La Renaissance orientale (1950), to which extent the discovery of the learned culture of the Hindus had both fostered and rendered extravagant the avant-garde and melancholic thought of European Romanticism, including its symbolic or decadent metamorphoses, in essays, poetry and novels, as well as on theatre stages.

It was, however, not until the incisive book by Edward Said, Orientalism (1978), that the study of literature, the arts and social sciences was seen to be inscribed in the framework of the European colonial adventure and enterprise. It is true that his focus concerned only the Arab world and the Middle East. However, his argumentative arsenal progressively reached out to assail more distant regions of the Orient, including that of South Asia. Since then, the battle lines have been drawn: the potent Occident was historically constituted by transforming the Other, inferior and dangerous, into the emasculated Orient which was needed to legitimate its imperialist design.

A considerable number of works have gone down this hypercritical and reflexive, not to say Manichaean, path, works bearing on the relations between the West and the "rest", with varying success and subtlety (G.C. Spivak 1988, 1990; A.K. Bhabha 1990; N.D. Dirks 1992; A Ahmad 1992; G. Prakash 1994, 1995). A recent collective work vigorously testifies to this, Orientalism and the Post-Colonial Predicament (Breckenridge & van der Veer 1993), offering much more than its title would give one to expect. Along the lines of Bernard Cohn (1987; 1996), who undertook to make an inventory of all the modalities through which British discourse produced various forms of knowledge: investigations, censuses, museography, legal codes, etc., one examines with greater depth the ways in which the colonial administration constructed a knowledge of Indian society and culture which were, in fact, fashioned by it. But also, and above all, one learns that colonialism persists today, such is the difficulty which Indians and foreigners have in thinking of India in terms which would not be orientalist in nature. Also bearing witness to this are the works of an anthropologist from the subcontinent who has assimilated the academic field to a fictive space by entitling his book Imagining India (1990). At the same time, he repudiates his earlier standpoints. An intention of this work was to break down the solid disciplinary objects which, for many years, caste, village, the Indian spirit and divine kingship had constituted. Ronald Inden, for it to his work we refer, preceded this "deconstructionist" attack with an article, "Orientalist Constructions of India" (1986), in which he brilliantly signaled the major stages of the categorical reification of India-a subcontinent continually transformed in essence, according to Inden, since the Age of Enlightenment.

Notwithstanding excesses, factual errors and the technique of anachronism initially employed by Edward Said-who was criticized on this account by James Clifford (1988), Aijaz Ahmad (1991), and many others (Sprinker 1992)-his work engendered a project which, on the long term, has proved salutary: that of re-thinking the problem of the construction of the Other, in disciplines of fiction, as in the field of social sciences. This project Edward Said himself continues to foster by integrating Africa, India, the Far East, Australia, the Caribbean and the most contemporary actuality, in his latest work, Culture and Imperialism (1993).

Today, many bemoan the deleterious effects on the research into these turbulent "deconstructionist" or "post-orientalist" undertakings without, however, really knowing which meanings are to be ascribed to these terms; the word "post modernism" is meaningless, so you have to use it very often… Let us grant that "deconstructionism" applied to "orientalism", leads to the foundation of a "post-modernism" which renews that which it denounces insofar as it accords sovereign based. Who, in effect, could deny that henceforward the conventional rhetoric of "discourse", of "discursiveness", "narrative" and of "power"-evidently mixed with or contrasted to (Gramscian) "hegemony"-has often borne similarity to a septic bacillus? French intellectual tradition is without doubt well placed to recognize this, in as much as the jargoning groundswell is readily supplied by indigenous authors: Derrida, Lyotard, Bourdieu or Foucault. Their readers encounter, however, some difficulty in recognizing them in the "post-structuralist" amalgam, since which time they have crossed the Channel and the Atlantic, where they are to be found enlisted in the battalions of textual demolishers of neo-colonialism-armchair decolonizers! It will suffice to recall Michel Foucault's unkind remark qualifying the work of Jacques Derrida: "[…] historically determined minor pedagogy" that these gurus occupy distinct, if not contradictory, positions of authority in the regional field of the homo academicus, to employ the characteristic terminology of one of them. However, post-colonialism is obliging: who could legitimately forbid anyone to appropriate imported products as one deems fit? Thus, it is a question of scale and distance.

To wish to recognize in this effervescence only vain excitement fostered by post-modern illusion does not, however, do justice to the profuse imagination of contemporary social sciences. Also, nothing serves to combat such a pervasive logorrhea: anything undertaken against it, said Friedrich Nietzsche, is insignificant. It would be better to take not of this renewal of perspectives and inquiries in order to assess the reconfiguration of the old domain designated by the antiquated, but today very fashionable, term "orientalism". Is this not, after all, in "the nature of normal science", as the epistemologist Thomas Kuhn (1983) wrote, as any contributor to evolving science must know. For, from the sustained effort of Indianists since the 1970s, Anglo-Saxons as well as Europeans, but, let us stress, above all of Indians, a profusion of knowledge has resulted which, by shifting the emphasis of problems open to research, and the criteria according to which specialists decide upon that is to constitute a problem or solution, defies the preservation of pre-existing paradigms.

One possibility which exists for countering the "post-orientalist" surge consists in reducing the scale of observation of studies, which, moreover, are concerned to render the problems complex, through an attentive exploration of details, of juxtapositions, of unanticipated short-circuits and unforeseen links. Underscoring argumentative or rhetorical procedures, new paths may be opened for appraising orientalism and anthropology in their interwoven destinies, which are to be subjected to rigorous periodization.

To contribute to the realization of this task is the intention of this small work, Orientalism and Anthropology, a title which can be read as a chiasmus, and by which should be understood: an orientalism reappraised by a resolutely plural anthropology. The purpose of the three texts included in this volume is to cast light on the extent to which orientalism is founded on anthropology, and conversely-each author doing so in his own manner: ironic as regards Denis Vidal, Bourdieusian in the case of Roland Lardinois, turbulent as for Jackie Assayag. Max Muller and Louis Dumont were, of course, only the standard-bearers of a disciplinary tendency which developed over a lengthy period: a tendency manifested by the will to capture an essential, not to say, fundamental, India.

The relevance of the studies in this volume is fourfold. First, it is shown that the works of French-speaking researchers in India have not been devoted exclusively to research done "in the field, which one might be led to believe, although these examples are chosen at random, by the list of Pondy Papers in Social Sciences, the titles of the principal scientific journal devoted in France to the thematic of South Asia-Purusartha -, or the recent monographs by two of the contributors to this volume (Vidal 1995; Assayag 1995) and the investigations regarding the family carried out by the third (Lardinois 1986). It should be emphasized that it is through the will to remain continually in proximity of the "field" that researchers avoid becoming "armchair decolonizers".

This volume thus at least enables one to recall that there is indeed a critical tradition of the Dumontian model in France, where the work has, in effect, been the dominant. If not exclusive, paradigm, not only for the study of the subcontinent, but also for the presentation of the comparative method of the culturist type. The model, moreover, is still employed by a few isolated Indianists who disregarding disciplinary transformations, indifferent to new objects of study, little acquainted with other than French-language bibliographies, weary themselves in fashioning something new from what is old through presumptuous, but pitiable, conceptual abundantly known.

In the English-speaking countries, the major work, Homo Hierarchicus (1967), had also served as a model, but in the manner of a foil. Consider, for example, the elaboration of "ethno-sociology" by the Chicago School, patronized by McKim Marriott (1989), today reduced to the exploration of the facets of a (magical) cube endowed with the capacity to explain Indian society as a whole. The equivocal privilege of the Dumontian model made in America' persists today: the last work of the Dumontian model 'made in America' persists today: the last work of the anthropologist Mattison Mines (1994), entirely devoted to the exploration of Tamil culture (and that of South Asia-the work wittingly upholds this ambiguity-), adopts an opposing course and conception of India, antithetical to the comparative method of Louis Dumont, by demonstrating that individualism does, in fact, exist in India. It is, however, an individualism which does not eclipse ambitious work which opposes those whom it refers to as "the merchant[s] of the exotic", whether academic or not, Decidedly, one is always the orientalist of the other!.

The texts comprising this volume also take a cultural view of history. It is a question, particularly for English-speaking readers little acquainted with the ideological history of France between the two World Wars, of calling to mind a few unnoticed, forgotten or overshadowed intellectual references which, nevertheless, were determinant in the construction of an "object" which one is increasingly less inclined to term scientific. The India of the French academic tradition has certainly not been comparable to that of British and American and, a fortiori, of Indian, traditions, Regional anthropologies of the different nations do not correspond; they have their own academic traditions, their privileged regions of study and their preferred tools, if it is not a recognizable construction among many. They are also manifestations of "imagined communities", as Benedict Anderson has defined nations (1983).

Finally, these texts affirm how heuristic is to cross rather then preserve them on the basis of a single paradigm. The boundaries between disciplines or faculties, literary genres or inspired tropisms. However cursorily one examines the conceptual tools and intellectual constructions elaborated in time and taught according to circumstances, the boundaries appear more fluid than one would have thought. Understanding is not closed to imagination, and imagination often lends ardour to understanding.

That is to say, these texts with to restore to imagination the potency of its meaning. This also pertains to symbolic constructions which are intellectual undertakings, even, and above all, if they have similarities to "Gothic architectures", to employ the equivocal praise which Edmund Leach (1970) addressed to Claude Levi-Strauss; British traditional empiricism thus takes hold of the intellectualism of researchers on the continent. Such a study has already been put forward for works of fiction (Weinberger-Thomas 1988, Lombard 1993). As for theoretic productions, the field still lies by and large fallow. It is hoped that the perspective offered by these three texts will help to elucidate, by individual cases, the limits between indology and the social sciences. Let us also hope that they will serve to illustrate the strength of what the most Greek of all French philosophers, Cornelius Castoriadis (1975), has called "the imaginary institution of society.

Back of the Book

The purpose of the three texts included in this volume is to cast light on the extent to which Orientalism is founded on anthropology, and conversely-each author doing so in his own manner. Max Muller and Louis Dumont were, of course, only the standard-bearers of a disciplinary tendency to capture an essential, not to say, fundamental, India.

The relevance of the studies in this volume is fourfold. First, it is shown that the works of French-speaking researchers in India have not been devoted exclusively to research done "in the field". Second. It enables one to recall that there is indeed a critical tradition of the dominating Dumontian model in France. Third, it calls to mind a few unnoticed, forgotten or overshadowed intellectual references which, nevertheless, were determinant in the French construction of India. Finally, these texts affirm how heuristic it is to cross the boundaries between disciplines or faculties, literary genres or inspired tropisms, rather than preserve them on the basis of a single paradigm.

It is hoped that the perspective offered by these three texts will help to elucidate the limits between Indology and the social sciences, and will serve to illustrate the strength of what the French philosopher, Cornelius Castoriadis, has called "the imaginary institution of society".

This volume is reprinted as it has been edited in 1997.

CONTENTS

Note 7
Introduction9
Orientalism And Anthropology
Jackie Assayag
Bibliography14
Max Muller and The Theosophists17
Denis Vidal
1The Two Sides of Orientalism18
2Missing Links23
3Conclusion26
Bibliography28
Genesis Of Louis Dumont's Anthropology 31
Roland Lardinois
1East And West A Thought of Order And Hierarchy33
2Rene Guenon: The Life-History of An Outcast35
3Durkheim's Sociology at Stake37
4From The Crisis of The Modern World To The Anthropology of Modernity39
5Indigenous Theory And The Sociological Model40
6Homo Hierarchicus: A Dharmic Reading of Hinduism41
7Hinduism And The Universal45
8Fundamental Science And (Classical) Science47
9Repression And Resurgence48
Bibliography56
Indianism And The Comparative Theory of Louis Dumont61
Jackie Assayag
1Anthropology And Indianism63
2Archaeology Of A Regional Anthropology Hierarchy66
2.1. Paris. Val d'Aoste, Oxford67
2.2. Berlin, Sudan and Arabia, the Veda and Rome69
2.3. Tarascon, Polynesia, Ceylon and Indo-Europeans72
2.4. France, the 1930s Gnostic regionalism and Cairo once again75
3Regionalism Or Transnationalism?80
Bibliography83
Abstracts89
Resumes90

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