1st Edition

Ethics of Description The Anthropological Dispositif and French Modern Travel Writing

By Matt Reeck Copyright 2024
    278 Pages 40 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Ethics of Description: The Anthropological Dispositif and French Modern Travel Writing follows the development of a minor tradition in French literature where metropolitan authors traveling abroad demonstrate their awareness of the ethical conundrums of representing world peoples. During the colonial–modern era, currents of anthropological thought and representational practice are identifiable throughout society, and across literature, the arts, and the sciences. Collectively, they can be theorized as belonging to a dispositif, the anthropological dispositif. The modernization of anthropology serves as an ambivalent interlocutor for the realizations of the writers studied in this book about the difficulties of describing cultural realities that lie largely outside their ken. Anthropology motivates new literary representational strategies that are, alternatively, in keeping with scientific mandates or operate against them. Forty images are analyzed alongside literary works. A postcolonial chapter shows how the ethical awareness of the colonial–modern authors studied have impacted minority self-representation in contemporary France.


    List of Figures


    Interchapter 1: Cordier and Fromentin: A Case Study of Ethnographic Art

    1.  Ethnographic Aesthetics: An Order of Subjects Called the Document

    Interchapter 2: The Arche-Principle in Turn-of-the-Century Anthropological Images

    2. Segalen’s Arche-Writing

    Interchapter 3: Visual Memory in the Dispositif

    3. The Paradox of Description: The Tableau and the Note in André Gide and Marc Allégret’s French Equatorial Africa

    Interchapter 4: Double Exposure: Photojournalism in 1930s Ethiopia

    4. Information Ethics in L’Afrique fantôme

    Interchapter 5: Travel in Rachid Djaïdani’s Film Sur ma ligne [On My Line] (2006)

    Chapter 5: French Minority Writers and Polyvocal Auto-Ethnography in Métisse France



    Matt Reeck is a Guggenheim Fellow in Translation. Having completed his PhD in the Comparative Literature Department at UCLA, he is currently an Adjunct Professor of French and Francophone Studies at St. John’s University.