A 1970 French interdisciplinary seminar on structuralism, attended by Foucault, Canguilhem, Bourdieu, Serres, Thom et. al., its published traces and a request for help

This is a short account of an interesting event and a rather specialist request for help.

In the late 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s the Institut collégial européen organised a series of events, most of which were reported in their annual Bulletin. I’m looking for the one reporting on a September 1970 event on structuralism.

The structuralism event was held at the Institut national des sciences et techniques nucléaires de Saclay, about 20 km southwest of Paris. It was co-sponsored by the Collège de France. It was organized by the mathematician André Lichnerowicz, the literary historian Gilbert Gadoffre and the economist François Perroux. Foucault attended and gave a talk on Dumézil. Also in attendance were a range of people including Suzanne Bachelard, Pierre Bourdieu, Georges Canguilhem, André Martinet, Jacques Monod, Clémence Ramnoux, Michel Serres, Gilbert Simonden and René Thom… Roland Barthes was invited but according to Gadoffre, after dithering for a while, declined.

The Bibliothèque nationale de France has most of the Institut collégial européen Bulletins, but the sequence runs 1966-1969, 1971-1974, 1976-1982 (the Arsenal library has 1972-1976). There is no bulletin for 1970 in the BnF collection. I’m trying to work out if anything was actually published that year, or if it’s just the BnF has a missing number in the sequence.

Worldcat has no entry for a report in 1970. But the bulletins were generally reproduced typescripts, not formal books, so I don’t trust this entirely. Sélection et contestation is listed in some places with a publication date of 1970, but it is a report on a colloque from September 1969, and the BnF has this. 

click for higher resolution

The 1970 event I’m interested in was reported in Le Monde on 29 October 1970. The event was used to launch a series of conversations on this theme, some papers of which were published in in an edited volume on Structure et dynamique des systèmes in 1976. I have a copy of this – copies can be found second-hand fairly easily – and of several of the subsequent volumes, which report on ongoing conversations. There were ones on L’idee de regulation dans les sciences, Analogie et connaissance, Information et communication, and Projet et programmation.

Structure et dynamique des systèmes includes a summary of the 1970 event by André Malan, but not its papers. From the way it reports Foucault’s contribution, it seems it was very close to a lecture he gave in Japan in October 1970, which was published in Japan in 1972 and is included in Dits et écrits and Essential Works as “Révenir à l’histoire”/”Return to History”. The French text is online. There is a manuscript which looks like this lecture in the archive.

I also know that there is a discussion of the interdisciplinary seminar series in Gilbert Gadoffre, un humaniste révolutionnaire: Entretiens avec Alice Gadoffre-Staath, Grâne/Paris: Créaphis, 2002, 144-49.

So it may well be that there was no Bulletin for 1970, because the report got folded into something much bigger. But equally there might have been a report, and if so I’d like to find it… Does anyone know anything which might help?


This entry was posted in Georges Canguilhem, Georges Dumézil, Michel Foucault, Michel Serres, Roland Barthes. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A 1970 French interdisciplinary seminar on structuralism, attended by Foucault, Canguilhem, Bourdieu, Serres, Thom et. al., its published traces and a request for help

  1. Clare O'Farrell says:

    Reblogged this on Foucault News.

  2. Pingback: Indo-European thought project update 7: Working on Dumézil’s teaching, a few research resources, and some archival work in Paris | Progressive Geographies

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