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Ethology and Anthropology

Ethologie et anthropologie

From Umwelt to representational Worlds

Des mondes sensibles aux mondes de la représentation

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Published on Monday, September 29, 2014


The objective of this workshop is to build disciplinary bridges and to by-pass various epistemological bolts which hinder the intimate knowledge of animal societies. A methodological anthropomorphism, with a comparative aim, would indeed allow us to fill in the gap between the respective fields of social sciences and animal sciences in the broader sense of the latter word.


In A Stroll through the Worlds of Animals and Men, published in 1934, Jakob von Uexküll refuted the idea that animals could be reduced to a mere mechanism, responding to stimuli by reactions. Taking the tick for example, he showed how it perceives the world according to what makes sense in its surroundings. The theory of Umwelt, "surrounding world" or "sensitive world", provides every animal, human beings included, with an own particular world. The idea that all animals are endowed with a sensibility, that they interpret their environment and act accordingly, raises the question of Von Uexküll’s legacy, both for Ethology and for Anthropology. The hypothesis of a continuity amidst the animal reign was already present in the first worthy animal monograph, that of the anthropologist Lewis Henry Morgan (1868). In his study on the life and works of the American beaver, he considers both human and non-human beings are endowed with a common mental principle. Such premises raise a challenging debate: what is the heuristic value of the "sensitive worlds "? What experimental or empirical approaches allow us to delineate both the "animal perspective” and the "Native point of view" such as defined by Malinowski? Are the "worlds" of social and solitary animals significantly different? What ecological, phylogenetic or cultural imperatives determine the constitution and the interpretation of these worlds?


  • Maison René-Ginouvès. Archéologie et Ethnologie, salle F308 - 201 avenue de la Rébublique, Université Paris Ouest Nanterre
    Nanterre, France (92)


  • Friday, October 10, 2014


  • cognition comparée, Uexküll, sciences animales


  • Florent Kohler
    courriel : florent [dot] kohler [at] gmail [dot] com

Information source

  • Florent Kohler
    courriel : florent [dot] kohler [at] gmail [dot] com


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Ethology and Anthropology », Study days, Calenda, Published on Monday, September 29, 2014, https://doi.org/10.58079/qwq

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