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Genealogical narratives

Le récit généalogique

Appel à contribution pour les Cahiers de littérature orale, n°83 (2018/1)

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Published on Friday, July 01, 2016 by Céline Guilleux

Summary

The close association, in Western countries, of genealogy with literacy and historical science seems to relegate this kind of productions to the margins of oral literature. Even though the modern means used to build a genealogy (civil registration, church records, family archives, increasingly, genetics and digital files) and to transcribe it (through listings and “trees”) belong in writing, it has not always been so. There also remain many cultural areas in which genealogy is still essentially a matter of orality. Beyond its fundamental social and political aspects in the traditional context, genealogy presents an interesting linguistic, if not literary, dimension.

Announcement

Editors

Edited by Sophie Chave-Dartoen and Bruno Saura

Argument

The close association, in Western countries, of genealogy with literacy and historical science seems to relegate this kind of productions to the margins of oral literature. Even though the modern means used to build a genealogy (civil registration, church records, family archives, increasingly, genetics and digital files) and to transcribe it (through listings and “trees’’) belong in writing, it has not always been so. There also remain many cultural areas in which genealogy is still essentially a matter of orality. Beyond its fundamental social and political aspects in the traditional context, genealogy presents an interesting linguistic, if not literary, dimension. This is why Peter Campion has evoked (2015) the genealogical narrative in terms of 'poetics'. In contemporary Western societies, genealogical narratives also develop new ties with orality. They can be used as therapeutic instruments through which a family secret or heritage can be discovered, accepted or rejected.

The expected contributions to this issue of Cahiers de littérature orale will explore the different facets of genealogical narratives connected with one or another of the following three lines of thought:

1.  Genealogy in the context of oral cultures

In oral societies, genealogies have an intrinsic political dimension. The genealogies most likely to be transmitted are those of chiefs, kings, descendants of an ancestor (himself at the origin of a population settlement in an area, or at the origin of an important lineage). Some genealogies are directly embedded in cosmologies, featuring cosmic forces or natural phenomena seen as ancestors, as in the Kumulipo, Hawaiian chant of creation (Beckwith, 1981; Thompson 1996: A645. Creation of universe: genealogical type). Such incorporations of genealogical accounts into a harmonious ''natural order'' obviously ignore the social logic that structures and underlies these speeches: conflicts between first-born and cadets, breaks and bifurcations, adulteries, adoptions. Thus, the family story is in the highest degree a social and historical construction. That is why historians and ethnologists have for many years questioned the use of genealogy to trace the ancient history of oral societies from a chronological perspective (Diabate, 1986; Perrot, 1989).

In addition to these topics, one could study the extent of sacredness of traditional genealogies and their more or less secret nature (Thompson 1996: C564.6 Tabu. Teaching genealogy of chiefs to commoners), as well as the person (gender, origin, status) among those who keep and transmit them, amongst whom the famous African griots (Bornand, 2005, 2012); the conditions of their transmission - often in the course of rituals related to birth, to a family alliance, to a consecration, to bereavement.

It would also be fruitful to address language issues and even literary approaches to genealogies. From medieval Europe to African lands to shores of Oceania, they do not necessarily constitute separate accounts from other types of speech (songs, odes, epic legends); they may even have links with a culture of entertainment (Duby, 1967).

 2. The genealogy between oral and written culture

Whether the result of internal dynamics or the product of a contact, the emergence of literacy and its generalization have had consequences for hitherto oral genealogical narratives. The contradictions and the ideological dimension of genealogies appear more obvious then through the comparative study of written genealogies, or several versions of the same genealogy. Additions or erasures of characters or lineages as well as phenomena of collusion with genealogies from another cultural area can be highlighted. The introduction of a culture of writing, in a situation of religious acculturation, often produces content changes in traditional genealogies (in Muslim sub-Saharan Africa, it can be prestigious to have Arab ancestors; elsewhere, to descend from Adam, Noah, Abraham). By the same token, literacy provides the means to set off the alteration of the now written genealogies. In line with the work of Jack Goody (1978) relating to other types of narratives, one can observe that the practice of writing also entails a formal restructuration of genealogies (Calame, 2006). They can now be organized into columns, showing spouses whose identity was not transmitted before; they can take on the appearance of a tree; they can proceed from some ancestor – in the direction of a contemporary character – or move the other way round, etc.

In cultures of literacy as in those of orality, other forms of expression (painting, sculpture ...) also complement the genealogical narratives, trying in their own way to account for a family or dynastic continuity while marking out individuals with personal features.

3. The contemporary genealogical narrative

A real ''passion'' for genealogy (Bromberger, 1998) has overtaken Western societies in the late 20th century, leading to an increase in productions of family trees and genealogical narratives based on multiple materials (written official records, photos, newspapers, family histories). It is true that stories of this type already existed, like those of Lyons’ bourgeoisie in the 19th and 20th centuries, studied by Chantal Rodet and Yves Grafmeyer (2010). As descendants quite often of cadet branches of the high society (or aristocracy), they readily accepted different family heritages to avoid downgrading.

In the early 21st century, situations are highly variable. A number of contemporary genealogical narratives have a psychological dimension, in keeping with the psychogenealogical approach (Van Ersee and Maillard, 2002). The aim of the genealogical work here may be to break with some ancestors who committed a serious misconduct, who represent a destructive legacy, a situation of "family dead-end"; to transmit or not a name, a first name, a story. These genealogical narratives are no longer produced by powerful people or destined to them. They are rather oriented towards self-realization. Through them, the individual goes from ‘’produced by’’ status to that of ‘’subject‘’ or even ‘’actor of’’ a family history. This is the work carried out in France by the workshops called Roman familial et trajectoire sociale (Gaulejac 1999; Lainé 1998). While the culture of literacy is essential for individuals building, through writing, their own family story, speech - which is the basis for the clinical approach - continues to go along with it (Mercier and Rheaume, 2007).

Indicative bibliography

BROMBERGER, Christian, 1998, Passions ordinaires, Paris, Hachette Littérature Pluriel, 544 p. 

BECKWITH, Martha, 1981, The Kumulipo. A Hawaiian Creation Chant, Honolulu, The University Press of Hawai’i, 257 p.

BORNAND, Sandra, 2005, Le discours du griot généalogiste chez les Zarma du Niger, Paris, Karthala, 464 p + CDROM.

BORNAND, Sandra, La construction d'une mémoire partagée : les griots généalogistes et historiens songhay-zarma du Niger, Cahiers de Littérature Orale n°69, p.107-139.

CALAME, Claude, 2006, Logiques catalogales et formes généalogiques, Kernos [En ligne], 19/2006mis en ligne le 24 mai 2011, consulté le 2 juillet 2015. URL : http://kernos.revues.org/424

CAMPION, Pierre, 2015, ‘’Le récit de généalogie, une poétique ?’’, Mis en ligne 1er mars 2015, consulté le 30 juin 2015. URL : http://pierre.campion2.free.fr/cgenealogie.htm

DIABATE, Henriette, 1986, Les Sanvinn. Sources orales et histoire, essai de méthodologie, Dakar & Abidjan, Nouvelles éditions Africaines, 189 p.

DUBY, Georges, 1967, Remarques sur la littérature généalogique en France aux XIème et XIIème siècles, Comptes rendus des séances de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, 2-1967, p. 335-345.

GAULEJAC, Vincent de, 1999, L’histoire en héritage, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 304 p.

GOODY, Jack, 1978, La raison graphique. Domestication de la pensée sauvage, Paris, Les éditions de minuit, 272 p.

GOODY, Jack, 1994, Entre l’oralité et l’écriture, Paris, PUF coll. Ethnologies, 323 p.

LAINE, Alex, 1998, Faire de sa vie une histoire, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 276 p.

LAPIERRE, Nicole, 1995, Changer de nom, Paris, Stock, 396 p.

LUFFIN, Xavier, 2005, « Nos ancêtres les Arabes », Civilisations. Revue internationale d’anthropologie et de Sciences humaines 53, p. 177-209.

MERCIER, Lucie ; RHEAUME Jacques, 2007, Récits de vie et sociologie clinique, Québec, Editions de l’IQRC/Université Laval, 348 p.

ONG, Walter, 1986, Writing is a technology that restructures thought in Gerd BAUMANN, The written word Literacy in transition. Wolfson College Lecture 1985, Oxford, Clarendon Press, p. 23-50.

PERROT, Claude-Hélène, 1989, Sources orales de l’histoire de l’Afrique, Paris, éditions du CNRS, 228 p.

RODET, Chantal ; GRAFMEYER, Yves, 2010, Généalogies. Le récit bourgeois XIXe et XXe siècles, Lyon, Presses universitaires de Lyon, 503 p.

SAURA, Bruno 2008, Quand la voix devient la lettre : les manuscrits autochtones de Polynésie française,  Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 126-127, p. 293-309.

THOMPSON Stith (ed.), Motif-index of Folk-Literature : a Classification of Narrative Elements in Folktales, Ballads, Myths, Tables, mediaeval Romances, Exempla, Fabliaux, Jest-books and local Legends, Indiana University press, Bloomington, Indianapolis, 1996, 6 vol.

VAN ERSEEL Patrice; MAILLARD Catherine, 2002, J'ai mal à mes ancêtres: la psychogénéalogie aujourd'hui, Paris, Albin Michel, 208 p. 

Procedure and timetable

Proposals (contributions intentions with title and abstract not exceeding 1000 characters) should be sent to Sophie Chave-Dartoen (sophie.chave-dartoen@u-bordeaux.fr) and Bruno Saura (bruno.saura@upf.pf)

before October 1, 2016.

Selected papers will be submitted before 1 September 2017.

Articles must be written in English or French; the title, abstract and keywords are given in both languages.

Note to authors is available on the website of the journal: http://clo.revues.org/

Editorial Board

  • Ioana Andreesco, Paris
  • Mihaela Bacou, Columbia University, Paris
  • Nicole Belmont, EHESS – Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale
  • Brunhilde Biebuyck, Columbia University, Paris
  • Sandra Bornand, CNRS – LLACAN
  • Manon Brouillet, EHESS, Paris
  • Josiane Bru, LISST, Centre d’anthropologie sociale, Toulouse
  • Micheline Lebarbier, CNRS – LACITO
  • Cécile Leguy, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3 – LACITO
  • Bertrand Masquelier, LACITO
  • Jean-Marie Privat, Université de Lorraine – CREM

Scientific Committee

  • Dan Ben Amos, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jean Derive, Université de Savoie – LLACAN
  • Jack Goody, St John’s College, Cambridge
  • Veronika Görög-Karady, CNRS
  • Lee Haring, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York
  • Juha Pentikaïnen, University of Lappland

Date(s)

  • Saturday, October 01, 2016

Keywords

  • généalogie, récit, oralité, littérature orale

Contact(s)

  • Sophie Chave-Dartoen
    courriel : sophie [dot] chave-dartoen [at] u-bordeaux [dot] fr
  • Bruno Saura
    courriel : bruno [dot] saura [at] upf [dot] pf

Information source

  • Sophie Chave-Dartoen
    courriel : sophie [dot] chave-dartoen [at] u-bordeaux [dot] fr

To cite this announcement

« Genealogical narratives », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Friday, July 01, 2016, https://calenda.org/372450

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