Dear Max Claudet, Dear Professor, Dear Dipankar Gupta,Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,Dear Friends,

I had the honour during this short stay to meet several
personalities of the Indian cultural world, and to visit several
institutions, such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, or the Indira Gandhi
Centre for the Arts. By visiting the tomb of Humayun I was able to take the
measuring the extraordinary work of the Archeological Survey of India.
After contemporary art, photography and heritage, it’s about
I spoke with my counterpart, Ms. Ambika, about the audiovisual
Soni, to discuss ways to update our cooperation. I am
very pleased to be with you now to discuss an area while
as important of our cooperation, namely what we call, of
the world of ideas.
Two years ago, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Lévi-Strauss. This anniversary was
led to many demonstrations that went far beyond
Parisian circles of the Musée du Quai Branly and the Collège de France:
seminars have flourished in Brazil and Chile, in China, in the United States, in
Russia… India was not left out, since you organized these
meetings of the India International Centre, in the presence of the Ambassador
Bonnafont. In the meantime Claude Lévi-Strauss left us, after having been
the first French anthropologist to enter the collection during his lifetime
of the Pléiade. To these multiple consecrations is added this collective that
you directed, and whose somewhat desecrating title sounds like
a publicity parody for a pair of blue jeans; My Favourite Lévi-
Strauss, it’s a little totemization without taboo.
For at least 20 years, structuralism has hardly
building on the street. Where does this concern for celebration come from,
World, of his tutelary figure? Without wanting to encroach on the ground of
specialists, I would like to come back with you on some reasons for
which Claude Lévi-Strauss is for us all a major author – a
personal version, if you will, of My favourite Lévi-Strauss.
The genesis of structuralism, first of all, is a lesson
interdisciplinarity. The theoretical current that Lévi-Strauss has carried since
The basic structures of kinship is well derived from a
disciplinary interpenetration between linguistics and the humanities,
at the crossroads of ideas and national traditions – we
will think of the Russian and Danish linguistics that have entered the
de Saussure, or the American anthropology that Lévi-Strauss frequents
during his exile in New York. It is always good to remember the fertility of
these intersections, whereas interdisciplinarity today often makes
object, in increasingly specialized scientific fields, more than
the invocation only of practice.
If Levi-Strauss is important to us, it is also because he knew
transmit to a wide audience, beyond that of specialists,
the importance of the relationship to the ground which constitutes the core of the
the anthropologist – even if he himself had finally devoted to it
overall little time. Any reader of Tristes Tropics knows that
the experience of the field, is above all to lose oneself for
understand the other. Lévi-Strauss is one of those authors who
shown that the famous «terrain» of anthropologists is not only
postcolonial fixations, or impossible quests of the solitary seeker
in the throes of disappointment - like the mistakes of Marcel Appenzell, this
Fictional ethnologist from the brilliant imagination of Georges Pérec in La
life instructions.
Levi-Strauss is also the disturbing lesson of Race and Culture, 1971,
and the question he poses, before a UNESCO hearing, of the limits
of communicability between cultures. This concern, dear
Dipankar Gupta, you are familiar, you who speak of «westoxication» in
about what you analyze as a Western emulation
the superficial Indian elites. Here in New Delhi you are looking at
the work of an American anthropologist, whose land was in Brazil, in
Mato Grosso, you were sensitive to a universalist approach
able to give tools to overcome the barriers of the
I place all the more value on these Franco-Indian exchanges as the
misunderstandings, on both sides, can be hard between traditions
Louis Dumont, whose centenary will be celebrated
of the birth next year, had worked hard to show, with
Homo Hierarchicus the importance of the Indian social and cultural fact for
in Homo Aequalis, understand the fundamentals of this
called the West. As for our side of the mirror, Edward
Said had also shown the significance, for example, of
representations, and their ability to maintain the projection of
fantasies about imaginary otherness, and the maintenance of knowledge
often totally disconnected from social realities and
cultural. Exoticism is too often the double of ignorance, and
too many in France and Europe are those who, for having thought to taste
in the kitsch of Bollywood, do not ignore Ambedkar and the
founders of the Indian Union.
Evoking with you the figure of Claude Lévi-Strauss is also an opportunity
to talk about the globalization of ideas and the complex mapping of
their circulation. In the fields of philosophy, theory and
political, human and social sciences in general, India and France
often meet by interposed territories. If we read today
Rancière, Foucault or Bourdieu in India, it is of course thanks to
the commitment of Indian publishers. But that’s partly
also because the major authors of the French
the second half of the twentieth century were the subject of a singular digestion
in the world of English-language research, in the form of the
Theory.” At the same time, the Indian humanities have gone
successfully conquer the world, especially the world
American academic, notably through the success of subordinates
studies, including one of the leading representatives, for example, Gayatri
Spivak, was the English translator of Jacques Derrida. The great
names, often Indian, postcolonial American studies, do
now the subject, several years later, of an important debate in
France. In our interplay of influence, in transits and
of our ideas, the paradox is that we
meetings in the United States. If you allow me to
wildly hijack the title of Dos Passos, I would say that between
You and us, there’s often «Manhattan Transfer».
As such, rather than speaking in an eighteenth-century way of “radiation”
of French thought”, we’d better say “diffraction of the
French thought”. The advantage of «French Theory» is at least
Lévi-Strauss became the theoretician in La
wild thought, and that in this sense, it belongs to no one: it is
perhaps what makes it strong. We have somehow built
together a kind of Jantar Mantar, like the one who served from the
18th century in Jaipur to decipher the stars, but for this time
observe the world of men.
If I mention with you some features of this complex circulation of
ideas between India and France and their often indirect transfers, it is
of course to rejoice with you in the existence and richness of these
points of contact, for which you represent the Indian world of
publishing play a major role. Conversely, aid programmes to the
translation play an important role in fostering the presence of creation
in the French language. As you know, the Centre
In particular, the National Book Office
cover as far as possible the plurality of linguistic expressions
without focusing only on the authors of expression
English: Hindi, Bengali, Malayalam, Marathi… We could think
together to strengthen the presence of publishers and
Indian publishing professionals at numerous events in France, at
Paris as in the region, concerning the book. I believe in the
customization of reports, and the importance of visits, so that we
can each measure what we have to share, for example
common vision on copyright and copyright issues
It is, however, clear that French book exports in
India are in sharp decline in recent years, and even if
can blame the global economic and financial crisis, there is
probably not the only reason that can be invoked. To remedy this,
France’s action with the Plan d'aide à la publication du
Department of Foreign Affairs must be continued. But it would
I think it’s probably necessary to go further. In the area of science
human and social, my Ministry is currently studying the possibility of
set up a plan for translating research into English
contemporary French. This approach, led by the Delegation
to the French language and the languages of France jointly
with the National Book Centre, in collaboration with the CNRS, aims to
promote the circulation of ideas and make production more visible
in these fields, beyond the phenomena of fashion – which
could certainly have significant effects on density and quality
of our trade with India.
Finally, I would like to share with you a simple observation that my short
France and India share many of the same
Common perspectives on the impact of globalisation
on the fields of culture and communication – beyond
audiovisual issues, I am also thinking of the book market, the
the music industry, to the regulation of the internet. Within the framework of the
French presidency of the G20, we hope to organize next year a
Culture Ministers Summit, to be held in early November in
Avignon, in parallel with the international cultural, cultural and
the economy and the media that are organized there annually. We
of course, we look forward to India’s participation in this
event, in order to exchange our perspectives on issues relevant to
more and more, whether we like it or not, better governance
Thank you.