Benoît de L’Estoile

2005-07: researcher, at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) (Laboratoire "Genèse et transformations des mondes sociaux" (GTMS).

Assistant-professor (professeur agrégé) in social anthropology and sociology at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris)

Alumnus of the Ecole normale supérieure.

Masters degree (DEA) in Sociology, EHESS.

PhD in Social and Historical Anthropology (EHESS).


Elected Officer, Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists,


Site of EASA


Editorial Board, Social Anthropology



Teaching :

Visiting Lecturer, Département of Romance Languages, Princeton University (1989-1990)

Teaching Assistant, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.

Fellow of the British Council (1996)

Lecturer, École Normale Supérieure (Paris) (since 1996). Teaching in the doctoral programme in social sciences of ENS-EHESS.

Visiting professor (Rio de Janeiro, 1994, 1999; Naples, 2005).


Publications in English :

1997 "The 'natural preserve of anthropologists' : anthropology, scientific planning and development", Social Science Information., 36, 2, pp.343-376, June 1997.

2003 "From the colonial exhibition to the Museum of Man. An alternative genealogy of French anthropology". Social anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, déc. 2003, pp.59-79.

Abstract : The 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition, usually looked upon as an instance of colonial picturesque, may in fact be seen as a missing link in the history of French anthropology. Anthropology, both a symbol and an instrument of the new Native policy promoted by the organisers, played a key role in the project of displaying to the public the diversity of the peoples of the empires. The Exhibition provided a venue for anthropological conferences and opportunities for fieldwork, as it gave a prominent place to ethnographic documents, native artefacts and performers. In a sense, it appears as a rehearsal for the Museum of Man that was to be the heart of the discipline.


"Races not inferior but different'. Anthropological sciences and imperial policy at the Paris Colonial Exhibition (1931)", in B.Stuchtey ed.,  Science across the European Empires.  1800-1950, Oxford University Press / German Historical Institute.

Empires, Nations, and Natives: Anthropology and State-Making

Benoît de L'Estoile, Federico Neiburg and Lygia Sigaud


site of Duke University Press




Reviews :

GW Stocking, After Tylor, 1995, in Albion, 1997, pp.340-341.

Complete list of publications


Frontières de l'anthropologie (with Michel Naepels, 2004).


Seminar papers given in English :

" Practical and Cognitive Interests in early British social anthropology ", Seminar on Anthropological Theory, Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science, june 1996 

Title : A Living Laboratory. Reform Experiments and Anthropological Revolution in Britain’s African Empire (1920s-1950s).

Summary : This research is based on a study of the International Institute of African Languages and Cultures (later International African Institute), created in 1926, and of new networks and areas of debate set up in the 1930s. It analyses the webs of interactions and interlocution, in Britain and its colonial dependencies, between colonial reformers, academics, administrators and the colonised ‘natives’, around the scientific study of African languages, cultures and societies. The scientific revolution initiated by Malinowski at the London School of Economics, resulting in the creation of a new discipline, social anthropology, was tightly linked with two other changes : a remodeling of the interpretive frames of colonial reality, now read in terms of ‘culture’ and ‘society’, and a restatement of Indirect Rule as an anthropologically informed way of governing of native peoples, in a context of shifting power relations and growing interdependence between states. Anthropology became a social science and developed new theoretical interests in the process of tackling contemporary ‘practical problems’, such as ‘culture contact’ or political organisations. The academic establishment of the discipline resulted eventually in a distancing from practical questions, stigmatised as ‘applied anthropology’, in contrast with a ‘pure’ scientific anthropology.

Keywords : Africa – Great Britain – Colonial Empire - Indirect Rule – Social Reform - Social Anthropology – African Language and Cultures – Colonial Studies – Social studies of science – Sociology of Knowledge – Historical Anthropology – History of Anthropology