Thursday, February 16, 18:30
4, rue de Chevreuse, 75006 Paris
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2016 celebrated the centenary of Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics. This key work in the intellectual history of the twentieth century has traditionally generated an image of Saussure as a formalist theoretician and an abstractor of language, inspiring the Francophone structuralism which has now been widely critiqued, after having shaped and affected so much of European thinking from the late 1950s on, including English-language theory specifically.
Saussure’s lesser-known work on Germanic legends shows a strikingly different Saussure, engaged in ethnology and folkloristics and delving deep into social and cultural themes which, long after the debates of early nationalisms and their colonial developments, after the horror of World War II and the violent fractures of decolonisation, still preoccupy Europeans: what is a people, in the anthropological and conflict-laden fact of the plurality of peoples? And how do we think about the contemporary pressures bearing on the political notion of the people, in a context of advanced globalisation, new patterns of migrations, and the current populist moment?